Come Clean

When most people think about alternative fuels in the transportation sector, they think electric vehicles (EVs): Teslas, Mustang Mach-E’s, F-150 Lightnings, and other zero-to-60 stunners. EVs have certainly jumped to the fore among low-carbon options, but other possibilities may prove to be even better. One is hydrogen-fueled vehicles, which while posing a number of economic and logistical challenges, could eliminate the range anxiety associated with EVs — assuming that a robust, nationwide network of hydrogen fueling stations can be developed. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss hydrogen’s potential as a transportation fuel, including its infrastructure-related challenges and how it qualifies for credits under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

Traveled by air in the U.S. lately? Airports and airplanes are packed to the gills. Unruly passengers are making the nightly news and becoming YouTube sensations. Jet fuel shortages are popping up. But there are other developments in air travel too, including a push by the global airline industry to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions. And the heart of that movement is sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF. While the blending of SAF with conventional jet fuel is not mandated in the U.S., the alternative fuel is gaining altitude, in part because it can generate layers of credits that can be utilized in various renewable fuel trading programs. In today’s blog, we look at the current status of renewable fuel in the U.S. aviation sector.

Renewable diesel is a popular topic in the transportation fuel space, and for good reason. For one, RD provides a lower-carbon, renewable-based alternative to petroleum-based diesel; for another, it’s a chemical twin of and therefore a “drop-in” replacement for ultra-low sulfur diesel. But, most of all, there are the large financial incentives provided by California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, the U.S. Biodiesel Tax Credit, and other programs, which can make RD production highly profitable. Driven by these factors, there’s a lot of renewable diesel production capacity under construction or on the drawing board: everything from greenfield projects to expansions of existing RD refineries to conversions of old-school refineries so they can make RD. Today, we put the spotlight on RD and discuss how it differs from biodiesel, how it’s produced, and the new RD capacity coming online in North America.

Biodiesel has long constituted a small but stable portion of the diesel fuel diet in North America, its production being driven primarily by the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard and Biodiesel Income Tax Credit (BTC). Produced from a variety of feedstocks, including soybean oil, corn oil, animal fats, and used cooking oils, biodiesel offers a low “carbon intensity,” or CI — a big plus in California and other jurisdictions with low carbon fuel regulations. The incentives for producing biodiesel are substantial, but there are two big catches with the fuel: a limited supply of feedstocks and properties limiting how much can be blended with petroleum-based diesel. Today, we continue our series on low carbon fuel standards with a look at biodiesel’s pros, cons, history, and prospects.

Ethanol is a biofuel that is found in nearly 98% of the gasoline purchased at retail stations in the U.S., in most cases accounting for 10% of the gasoline/ethanol blend. This high-octane, biofuel has grown in popularity around the world, particularly over the last 20 years, due to regulations that require or incentivize its use. As governments continue to evaluate regulations to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ethanol has been overshadowed by some other biofuels lately but it is expected to continue to play an important role as a pathway for meeting low-carbon mandates. Today, we discuss the history, the production, and the still-evolving role of ethanol in the global push to decarbonize.

As governments and corporations around the world evaluate methods of decarbonization across sectors, one focus area has been transportation, since the petroleum fuels used to mobilize economies are significant contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is one of the longest-running programs for carbon intensity (CI) reduction targeting the transportation sector and provides an ideal case study to review for a better understanding of how one type of GHG reduction policy is anticipated to work. As many of the principles in this pioneering program are being evaluated for replication elsewhere, its results and consequences are still in the making. In today’s blog we’ll provide an overview of the Golden State’s groundbreaking LCFS, looking at its history, how it functions, and its effectiveness at meeting its goals to date.

As part of the Paris Agreement and other regional sustainability goals, countries across the globe are formulating strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The resultant policies target numerous different areas such as stationary emissions, electricity production, and transportation fuel sourcing. Within the transportation sector, one aspect that has spurred quite a bit of investment relates to reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. The “low carbon fuel” policies that are in place today, coupled with those that are being evaluated for the future, have the potential to displace a sizeable portion of the petroleum-based fuels in the regions where they are adopted. In today’s blog, we begin a series on low carbon fuel policies, the mechanisms being evaluated to meet increasingly stringent regulations, and the impact these regulations could have on refined-products markets.