ABA Associação De Bioenergia Avançada (original article here, free translation from EUROSHORE)
At a time when alternative fuels are debated and where the availability is globally still missing, EUROSHORE would like to draw your attention to an immediately available solution, thanks to the high technology expertise of port reception facilities, dedicated to collect but also to treat and recycle oily waste among other ship wate. In Europe it is only possible to develop this solution in countries recognising an end-of-waste status to these products. Several EUROSHORE members are engaged in this dynamic circular approach. Today let see the case of ECO-OIL in Portugal.
Eco-Oil was born in 2001 to treat contaminated water from tankers that passed through the Lisnave Shipyard and today it is the Portuguese company with the largest capacity for treating water contaminated with hydrocarbons and is among the five largest companies in Europe.
Innovation is part of its 20 years of history, marked by the revolution that its product represented in the national market. EcoGreen Power, a recycled fuel that results from the transformation of hydrocarbons present in contaminated waters, is today the solution for countless factories in in Portugal. Not only because of its better performance, but also because it represents a significant reduction in emissions, compared to traditional fuel.
Currently, it recycles 96% of all waste it receives, and, for the future, the focus is to continue to be part of the solution.
We interviewed the Managing Director of Eco-Oil, Nuno Matos, to learn more about the company and its impact on the environment.
Why is Eco-Oil distinguished from other companies that work with contaminated water in Portugal?
Nuno Matos: Installations with the characteristics of Eco-Oil are not common. In Portugal, we are the only ones with our configuration. We operate on a supranational scale, in the North Atlantic region and function as a port reception facility for waste (Port Reception Facility - PRF). In this regard, we also belong to the Euroshore International Association, which brings together the main European companies in this sector and which intends to play an active role in defining the European legal framework and in monitoring good practices in this sector.
How is the production of recycled fuel processed?
NM: The process begins with the arrival of contaminated water, which contains solid and oily fractions, at our facilities and as a treatment. While the water is treated and returned to the River Sado, the solid residues, the sediments, are separated and sent to specialized landfills and the oil fraction is recovered and constitutes the raw material for the production of industrial fuel.
At Eco-Oil, we treat contaminated water through an approved and licensed process, which first includes a physical-chemical treatment, a biological treatment unit and two columns of active carbon, to ensure that discharges into the river are harmless to the environment. environment, it should be noted that around Eco-Oil there is an important fishing community and a well-known colony of dolphins. We carry out regular checks on the intrinsic safety of processes, to ensure that the necessary measures to reduce the risk of environmental damage are continuously implemented.
It is important to mention and emphasize that the discharge of treated waters in the River Sado is done safely and with all the environmental conditions that the legislation requires.
What is the volume of treated water and fuel generated?
NM: Annually, we receive, on average, between 50 and 70 thousand tons of waste, of which 96% are recycled. In 2020, we registered 20 million liters of treated water and produced around 24 thousand tons of recycled fuel, EcoGreen Power.
What is the role of EcoGreen Power in protecting the environment and what sets it apart?
NM: EcoGreen Power is a 100% recycled fuel, that is, it uses only mineral hydrocarbon residues as raw material.
This fuel has a double impact in terms of polluting emissions, since, for each tonne it burns, it avoids the use of one tonne of equivalent fossil fuel, on the other hand, in the combustion process of EcoGreen Power less polluting emissions are released. Energetically equivalent to traditional fuel, what really sets it apart is the fact that it is much less polluting. According to our estimate, in 2020, all our customers avoided the emission of about 3,900 tons of polluting gases (see Eco-Oil sustainability report).
The fact that it is a 100% recycled fuel avoids the exploitation of natural resources and, therefore, its ecological footprint is smaller. If we analyze the life cycle of EcoGreen Power, the amount of CO2 incorporated is substantially lower, since we have no emissions associated with exploration, refining, transport, or storage. We started from a waste and turned it into fuel, which completely replaces the traditional one.
On the other hand, this recycled fuel allows savings on the customer's side because it is more efficient, resulting in a 4% reduction in annual consumption.
Thus, in addition to having a low carbon content, it has less environmental impact, in addition to economic savings for the industries that use it.
Is there an indicative number of the potential reduction in environmental pollution generated only with the work of Eco-oil?
NM: The data we have is the result of a comparative study carried out by an independent entity, which concludes that the fuel produced by Eco-Oil, EcoGreen Power emits 75% less NOx, 99% less SOx, 50% less particles and 30 less % ash, compared to traditional fossil fuel. This goes hand in hand with the 4% reduction in fuel consumption for the same amount of steam produced.
We asked ourselves what would be our impact on the market, what reductions would result from the amount of EcoGreen Power that we sell. Basically, what our customers avoided by choosing our fuel to the detriment of the traditional one. The result was a reduction of 3900 tons of polluting emissions, of which 3600 tons of CO2 and 300 of the remaining polluters (NOx, SOx, particles, ash).
What are the sectors in which Eco-Oil customers operate?
NM: Eco-Oil markets its product exclusively in Portugal. We work directly in the supply of factories, from the food sector, the most relevant, through heavier industries, such as paper, cement, to the lime sector.
We also work with distributors, companies that buy our product and place it on the market, in which case we have no information on the final destination.
EcoGreen Power is used for energy, steam or other production, to support the Customer's production processes, or for direct burning, as in the case of lime production.
Currently, what is Eco-Oil's target market?
NM: EcoGreen Power is an industrial fuel. Entering the mobility sector is a bet that we want to make and that is why we have been studying, in a joint effort with the academy, what technical investment we would have to make to enter this market, in our case we will bet on maritime mobility.
Do you consider that recycled fuel is green fuel? Because?
NM: Yes, it is undoubtedly a green fuel. Although it is a carbon-based fuel, what makes it green is the fact that it is 100% recycled - a process that requires much less CO2 incorporation, when compared to the process of obtaining and producing alternative fossil fuel.
EcoGreen Power not only has a low carbon content, but can fully replace fossil fuel, which is a huge environmental advantage. It should be noted that the waste treated at Eco-Oil results from cleaning the fuel tanks of oil tankers. The treatment of these residues at Eco-Oil contributes in some way to avoid illegal discharges on the high seas with relevant impacts on the marine ecosystem.
How do you analyze the contaminated water treatment industry in Portugal?
NM: Eco-Oil does not compare directly with the national industry because its scale of intervention is supranational.
What we see in the waste treatment sector in Portugal is a mature industry, which has purged the less competent operators - also the result of the work of the Portuguese Environment Agency, which has allowed market regulation, operator surveillance and guaranteed preservation of the environment. I can say that, from a general point of view, contaminated water is treated under the right conditions.
How do you see the impact that advanced bioenergy will have on the national market?
NM: The pandemic crisis is accelerating the energy transition, both in terms of the provision of electric mobility and by the awareness of different operators of the importance of exploring new greener solutions, with low carbon content or resulting from recycling operations.
The pandemic has come to incorporate the strengthening of the green economy and increase pressure in the Oil & Gas sector. Therefore, both in terms of mobility and in terms of the instruments that governments have at their disposal to penalize polluting emissions, they will create transformation mechanisms, which make customers referred, by fiscal pressure and public opinion, to these new solutions.
The environmental awareness of the industries we work with is decisive for the acceptance of EcoGreen Power. And it is this change in some players that will infect the market and the need to transform into less polluting industries, which tend to be neutral in emissions, based on a logic of circular economy.
How do you see the energy sector in Portugal and Europe, in 5 years?
NM: The oil and gas sector will be under pressure to look for alternatives to its own activity.
The electrification of the economy will be a reality. Therefore, Eco-Oil is also exploring whether it can, in an environmentally sustainable way, transform our fuel into electricity and whether that makes sense because, the more we electrify the economy, the greater the pressure on the electro-producing system to deliver that energy.
This is a movement that will be inevitable and that will bring major changes to the sector in the coming years.
What would you like to see applied in the Energy sector in Portugal?
NM: Many companies will be forced to seek the transition to a more sustainable solutions, through tax mechanisms, or for the sake of public opinion. Sustainability it become a game changer for big players and the small companies will follow; action will be made either directly (change to less polluting solutions) or indirectly (through afforestation programs, etc.).
In the case of EcoGreen Power, it is essential to create national mechanisms of positive differentiation vis-à-vis the fossil alternative, since our fuel replaces it entirely and does not have any type of fiscal or environmental incentive in terms of the applied carbon rate. This is a change that must exist and on which we are working with the legislator, as it would allow us to make EcoGreen Power more attractive both to companies that are concerned with the environmental issue and those that prioritize the financial issue.
Other themes that you would like to add. For example, a success story.
NM: Eco-Oil is a small company, but at our scale we do what we can to contribute to a better environment. Our people work daily to produce 100% recycled fuel and 95% of our employees say that they are proud to work at Eco-Oil and that they recognize the social importance of our work.
In 2020, EcoGreen Power avoided the emission of 3600 tons of CO2 and this is our success story. In 2001, this fuel was a waste and in 2021 it is a product with a status exactly the same as that coming out of a refinery. Which is something we are proud of.