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Cepsa creates a joint venture with Bio-Oils to build major biofuels plant in Spain

| By Mary Bailey

Cepsa  (Madrid, Spain) and Bio-Oils, Apical’s biofuels entity in Huelva, have created a joint venture to promote the production of second generation (2G) biofuels through the construction of the largest plant in southern Europe, announced by Cepsa last March. The facility, to be located at Cepsa’s La Rábida Energy Park in Palos de la Frontera (Huelva), will entail an investment of up to 1 billion euros, one of the largest private investments in the history of the southern Spanish region of Andalusia.

The new plant will secure the majority of the feedstock supply from organic waste such as agricultural residue or used cooking oils through a global, long-term agreement with Apical, Bio-Oils’ parent company, enabling it to address one of the key challenges facing the industry: access to feedstock. 2G biofuels promote the circular economy by using waste for their production that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Cepsa will contribute its technical expertise and experience in the development of large industrial projects and fuel production as well as its knowledge of the European market and the decarbonization goals of its customers in the transport sector. Apical and Bio-Oils will ensure the supply of raw materials and contribute their own expertise in biofuels production.

The new plant, which will create approximately 2,000 direct and indirect jobs during its construction and operation phase, will include two pretreatment units and the capacity for flexible annual production of 500,000 tons of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel for land, sea and air transportation. The plant is scheduled to begin operating in the first half of 2026.

The facility will be constructed with the latest technology specifically created for the production of this type of biofuels. Designed as a digital native plant, the new operation incorporates state-of-the-art technology including the latest industry advances in artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT) and data analysis to maximize process efficiency, and ensure the highest standards of safety and environmental protection.

The sustainable fuels developed in this new plant will save 1.5 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to 30% of emissions in the province of Huelva. The use of biofuels can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90% compared to traditional fuels, making biofuels a key element in enabling a fair energy transition to decarbonize transportation, particularly in sectors where electrification is complex, such as heavy road, maritime, and air transportation. Cepsa’s chemical business, will also benefit from this project having access to organic waste feedstocks for the production of their sustainable product portfolio.

The construction of this new plant is part of Cepsa’s objective to lead the manufacture of 2G biofuels in Spain and Portugal. The company will have an annual production of 2.5 million tons of biofuels by 2030, of which 800,000 tons will be of SAF, enough sustainable aviation fuel to fly around the planet 2,000 times.

This alliance is in line with the European Green Deal and the European Commission’s Fit for 55 package, which includes a legislative initiative called ‘RefuelEU Aviation’ that aims to boost the supply and demand of aviation biofuels in the European Union to 2% use by 2025, 5% by 2030 and 63% by 2050. The agreement will serve to position Spain as a benchmark in the supply of SAF to airlines.

As part of its 2030 Positive Motion strategy, Cepsa is driving the development of an ecosystem focused on accelerating its decarbonization, and that of its customers, through the production of green molecules, mainly green hydrogen and 2G biofuels, to become a benchmark in the energy transition.

In its strategic plan, the company has established a roadmap to reduce its emissions which is one of the most ambitious in its sector. Specifically, by 2030, it will reduce its CO2 emissions (Scope 1 and 2) by 55% and its carbon intensity index by 15-20%, with the objective of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Cepsa wants to go beyond net zero and have a positive impact, adding value in the communities where it operates by enabling its customers and other stakeholders to move forward in the right direction.

The development and use of biofuels contributes to several of the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy), SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production), and SDG 13 (Climate action).