Fuel For Thought
February 2013

Yanbu refinery to shutdown in March to bring clean fuel project online

▪ Yanbu refinery to shutdown in March to bring clean fuel project online

Saudi Aramco Mobil Refinery Company Ltd. (Samref), a joint venture between Mobil Yanbu Refining Company Inc. and Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco), announced that it plans to shut down most of the units at its 400,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Yanbu refinery in March. The refinery, which commenced operations in 1984, is based in Madinat Yanbu Al-Sinaiyah, Saudi Arabia. The move is aimed at bringing a new clean fuel project online. The company produces propane, gasoline, reformate for local petrochemical plant feed, jet fuel, automotive diesel oil, marine heavy fuel oil, sulfur, heating oil, diesel fuel and LPG. The outage is expected to last for 45-50 days.

Saudi Aramco and ExxonMobil, the world's two largest energy companies, have invested US$2.5 billion for the upgrade of the facility, which is located on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia.

▪ Huntsman and Sinopec Jinling form US$750 million chemical JV

Huntsman, a chemicals manufacturer headquartered in Woodlands, Texas, and Sinopec Jinling Co., a subsidiary of the Chinese petrochemical company Sinopec, have agreed to form a joint venture and build a US$750 million chemical plant in Nanjing, China. The joint venture will be called Nanjing Jinling Huntsman New Materials Company Ltd. Huntsman will own 49% of the company and Sinopec will have a 51% stake.

The chemical plant will produce propylene oxide and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). Propylene oxide is used to make materials including energy-efficient home insulation and comfort foams. MTBE is a clean fuel component and octane booster blended in gasoline.

The new chemical facility is expected to be finished in 2014. When fully operational, the facility will produce about 249,000 mt of propylene oxide and 726,000 mt of MTBE.

▪ New numbers suggest pollution in China nearing hazardous level

Numbers from pollution monitoring stations in China suggest that pollution has risen above the World Health Organization's (WHO) designated danger levels. According to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center, the air-quality index for Beijing is above 300 in some places, and at 500 in others. According to the WHO the concentration of Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5), particles in the air that are two and a half microns or less in width, should be no more than 25 micrograms per cubic meter. Monitors at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing reported a record high on January 12 of 728. For reference, a good index is 50 or below is considered good; an index of 500 is enough to warrant warning people against outdoor physical activities. At the current levels of pollution, residents are at risk of respiratory infections and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease.

Last December, the government declared that outdoor activities would have to stop, and factories would need to reduce their capacity until pollution levels can be decreased. Unfortunately, increased temperature and humidity play a factor in how quickly these very high levels of pollution can disperse.

A rough average of the PM2.5 levels from January 12 through the 15th put levels at 419, with the number slowly decreasing each day; the readings for January 17 show levels in the low 70s. Yu Jianhua, head of the atmospheric environment management office of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, advised residents to use public transportation to attenuate the contribution of personal vehicles.

Although the large number of automobiles in China has traditionally been cited as major contributors to air pollution, there are currently more pressing factors. Industrial uses account for the consumption of more than 310 million metric tons of coal annually, while heating plants consume 153.8 million metric tons. However, the largest consumers of coal by far, are power generation plants, which consume 1.3 billion metric tons every year. China is currently the world's largest consumer of coal at around 3.2 billion metric tons per year.

▪ China makes concerted effort to improve air quality

Environmental authorities in China released a target for the reduction of PM2.5 pollution in Beijing. The Ministry of Environmental Protection has called for a 6% reduction in PM2.5 in the capital and 13 other key areas. To meet these goals, the ministry has pledged 350 billion yuan (US$56 billion). The funding will go towards controlling sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions, as well as industrial smoke emissions.

Following the record-breaking levels of PM2.5 on January 14th, the Ministry reemphasized its commitment to decreasing emissions in general, and vehicle exhaust in particular. Current estimates show that vehicles account for almost a quarter of China's air pollution.

China remains the world's largest producer of automobiles with 12.27 million produced in 2012. However, the concern is not only the massive number of vehicles, but also the lack of clean fuel. In light of the recent air quality concerns, there is likely to be a strong push towards cleaner fuels as the country continues to grow.

▪ Maersk encourages Hong Kong to adopt clean fuels

Maersk Line, the world's largest container ship operator, is urging Hong Kong to become a greener city. The shipping company is one of 17 that volunteered to use low-sulfur fuels in 2010, but now Maersk is pushing to have other shippers do the same. Tim Smith, North Asia's CEO for Maersk, claims that other carriers are getting a cost advantage by using cheaper, less green fuel.

"What we want is [for] the government to regulate," he added. Maersk currently uses fuel which contains no more than 0.5% sulfur versus the industry average of between 2.5 and 4%. This commitment to greener fuel could be costing the company an additional US$2 million each year, including government incentives.

It is estimated that sulfur dioxide emissions from ships could drop up to 80% if all shipping lines followed Maersk's lead. According to a joint study performed by the think tank Civic Exchange and Hong Kong University, a switch to 0.5% sulfur fuel could decrease premature deaths in the Pearl River Delta by 519. If shipping lines switched to 0.1% sulfur fuel, deaths could drop as low as 195.

Hong Kong however, has traditionally had difficulty meeting its air-quality targets. A government report found that in 2011 there were 175 days with levels considered "very high pollution," twice the number of days from 2007.

▪ China's attempts to transition to green economy under 12th Five-Year Plan

China is committed to developing a sustainable economy, based on its ongoing 12th Five-Year Plan, which emphasizes domestic consumption and a green economy as its centerpiece. Experts say that China's rapid transition to a green economy will be a boon both to its domestic market and the global economy, especially the renewable energy industry.

The United Nations Environment Programme defines a green economy as one where "growth in income and employment should be driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services."

On China's part, it is making a green refurbishment of its economy under a number of key headings defined in the Plan. These include the value-added output of emerging strategic industries, which will account for 8% of its gross domestic product (GDP); and the country's manufacturing base in coastal regions will transition to high-end manufacturing, research and development.

Keystones in the greening process in China include replacing coal-fired power generation plants with those that run on renewable sources like biomass, wind energy and solar power. Also included are better insulation of homes and offices to reduce heating bills, combined urban heating and power networks, more recycling, improving energy-efficiency of production facilities, and developing alternative-fuel cars. The Chinese government says it plans to increase the share of non fossil-fuel based energy in the country's total energy consumption to 11.4% in 2015, up from 8.3% in 2010.

Two factors will clearly play a large role in transforming to a greener economy: the continued growth of China's vehicle production capacity and the recent record highs of pollution throughout its cities. The former highlights the importance of the latter as China will need to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles, in addition to cleaner fuels to avoid hitting the levels seen in early 2013.

▪ ExxonMobil releases update of Energy Outlook

Produced and updated by ExxonMobil each year, the Energy Outlook analyzes the trends that will shape global energy supply and demand over the coming decades. Unsurprisingly, the report found that there are two key concerns which remain at the top of the list for consideration in the coming years.

Fuel efficiency has been a growing trend and this year's Outlook predicts that it will stay that way. This is especially true in many regions of Asia as the energy demands in 2040 are expected to rise by 65% as compared to 2010. Overall, the global demand for energy will grow by 35%, and the world's power supply will have to support nearly 9 billion people. On the brighter side, the continued increase in fuel efficiency is expected to decrease energy demand from vehicles. These innovations will play a large role in Asia and Africa, which will be home to 75% of the world's population by 2040. Urbanization will also play a large role in the region, and in China in particular, where it is predicted that 75% of its population will live in cities, which exacerbate issues of pollution and energy management. Similarly, by 2040 70% of India's population will be of working age, which will greatly impact the country's need for energy.

The demand for transportation is expected to continue to grow, and by 2040 will be about 45% greater than it is now, further highlighting the importance of greener technologies. Heavy-duty transport will grow by 65% during the same period. In urban areas, vehicles can account for anywhere between 50 and 90% of pollution. To address these issues, many countries are setting strict goals for fuel economy. The U.S., for example, has a goal of 54.5 miles per gallon (23.17 kilometers per liter) by 2025; Japan has similar aspirations, with a goal of 47 mpg (20.3 km/l) by 2020.

▪ Vietnam promotes use and development of biofuel

Vietnam's Ministry of Industry and Trade said it will promote the use of biofuels in the country, having submitted a plan for the development of biofuel production and consumption up to 2015 and even further to 2025.

It projects that it will produce annually 1.8 million tons of ethanol and biodiesel for use as fuel, which is expected to meet 5% of total domestic petrol and diesel demand in the next 15 years.

The plan also includes a measure to mandate the compulsory use of a set amount of biofuel in some large cities, as well as better storage infrastructure and distribution network. Private companies are expected to help meet the demand. Two Dong Xanh Company factories in central Quang Nam Province have already began production of biofuel in August 2010 and now have the capability of providing 130 million liters a year. Construction of a new factory in Tung Lam in southern Dong Nai Province is also underway, and when fully operationally, will produce 70 million liters of the fuel annually.

Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam) has also started construction of three ethanol factories in northern Phu Tho, central Dung Quat and southern Binh Phuoc, each of which will have a capacity of 100 million liters a year.

▪ Hyundai to launch fuel-cell electric vehicles

After lagging behind its rivals in the battery-powered electric car segment, Hyundai Motor Company will launch what it calls the world's first production fuel-cell electric vehicles. The South Korean automaker is confident that fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) will be a more realistic future auto technology than pure battery electric cars such as Nissan Motor's Leaf. Those pure battery electric models have failed to win over drivers as the batteries are expensive, take hours to recharge and can only drive short distances.

A fuel cell converts hydrogen and oxygen into water and generating power to drive an electric motor. Fuel-cell vehicles can run five times longer than battery electric cars on a single power-up, and it takes just minutes to fill the tank with hydrogen, compared with eight hours or so to recharge a battery. The company plans to offer just 1,000 FCEVs, based on its Tucson crossover, from December 2012 through 2015 in Europe, while it finds ways to lower production cost by half.

"We aim to reduce prices of fuel-cell vehicles to match battery cars by 2020-25," Lim Tae-won, the director in charge of fuel-cell research at Hyundai and its affiliate Kia Motors, told Reuters. He said fuel-cell cars would overcome the "range anxiety," or fear of running out of power far from a charging point, if the refueling issue was resolved.

Trade media have put the initial sticker price of a fuel-cell car at around US$88,000, a hefty price tag for a brand that made its name with cheaper, feature-filled models. While fuel-cell electric cars may go further, manufacturers still have to wrestle with the high cost of production, double or triple that of battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs), and a lack of refueling infrastructure.

▪ Electric vehicle sales jump almost 104% in China

Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show a massive increase in electric vehicle (EV) sales in 2012. The data released show that total production increased from 8,169 units in 2011 to 12,522 units in 2012. Of those newly produced vehicles, 11,241 were pure EVs. The total number of EVs sold in 2012 topped out at 11,375 units, an increase of 103.9% from the previous year.

Pike Research, which provides in-depth analysis of global clean technology markets, shows that despite the rapid growth in sales, China has a long way to go before it reaches its goals for the electric vehicle market. The country's State Council announced in 2012 that China has a goal of producing 500,000 EVs by 2015 with a long-term goal of 2 million by 2020. According to the research group, China's current trajectory will only put sales at 45,000 units by 2015, and 152,000 vehicles by 2017. However, global management consultants McKinsey & Co. have not discounted China's potential. Axel Krieger, leader of McKinsey's China Auto Hub, stated that, "Given the enormous scale of its auto market, China should be a natural contender for global leadership in the electric vehicle market."

Krieger added that "short supply in batteries, underdeveloped infrastructure, as well as low recognition among customers," factored into the equation.

▪ Singapore's first LNG import terminal to open in early 2013

According to Research and Markets, Singapore will be opening its first LNG import terminal in the first quarter of 2013. The new terminal will help make sure that the country can meet the demand for gas independently, which may not bode well for the pipeline contracts it currently has with Malaysia and Indonesia. The terminal costs approximately US$1.39 billion and will have an initial capacity of 3.5 million tons per year, though the Singaporean government has plans to expand capacity to 9 million tons per year by 2017.

Currently, Singapore imports its natural gas exclusively via pipelines and has been experiencing a steady increase in oil demand. The growth of gas imports is expected to continue to grow by an average of 2.5-3% until 2021. Gas consumption in the country has grown by almost 500% in the last 13 years. By 2021, Singapore is expected to be importing US$38.9 billion worth of crude oil. Furthermore, the country's government has stated a commitment to long-term growth in refining capacity.

▪ Comments sought on proposed 5th edition of Worldwide Fuel Charter

On behalf of the Worldwide Fuel Charter Committee (WWFC), the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) announced the availability of a proposed new 5th edition of the Worldwide Fuel Charter (WWFC5). The Proposed WWFC5 provides automaker and engine manufacturer proposed recommendations for the quality of market gasoline and diesel fuel. JAMA said it is inviting comments on this proposal to be submitted no later than February 28, 2013.

The WWFC Committee will produce a response to comments and a final version of the WWFC5 after reviewing any comments received.

This proposed new edition of the WWFC differs from the 4th Edition, published in 2006, in several substantive respects as well as numerous editorial revisions. Most noticeable will be the new Category 5, which the committee adopted to distinguish markets with highly advanced requirements for fuel efficiency as well as for emission control. The document also updates and expands the references to biofuels in recognition of the importance of these new blending components. Importantly, the test method and limit for Trace Metals have been updated.

JAMA has posted this proposal on its web site at www.jama.or.jp/eco/wwfc/index.html alongside the previous edition. Comments may be sent to wwfc@mta.jama.or.jp before February 28, 2013.

No items found.
In other news...
In Focus
Rising energy prices: Possible consequences for transportation fuels and clean fuels

In this issue of In Focus, we look at the potential impact of the recent oil and energy price rally on gasoline demand and our industry. Governments around the world are considering various measures to combat the looming energy crisis, mainly caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In Focus
Indonesian Institute of Energy Economics (IIEE) Study: Cleaner Fuels for a More Sustainable Future

In this ‘In Focus’ newsletter we would like to focus on the “Cleaner Fuels for a More Sustainable Future” study published by the Indonesian Institute of Energy Economics (IIEE) in 2021. The study forms part of a larger research study titled “Strategy to Fulfil Fuel Supply in Indonesia to Comply with Euro 4 Vehicle Standards” conducted by the IIEE last year, which identified three major issues as reasons for the delay in the rollout of the plan and made some recommendations on how to tackle the issues. The Asian Clean Fuels Association contributed to the study.

In Focus
Mobility in Asia at the crossroads

In this ‘In Focus’ newsletter we would like to draw our readers’ attention to a joined opinion statement issued by Clean Air Asia (CAA) and the Asian Clean Fuels Association (ACFA), in which both organizations highlight their observations and express their concerns related the use of coal to fuel Asia’s energy demand.


The ACFA Update

Give your inbox a top up of the latest news on clean fuels