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Biodiesel production from residual oils

  • Name of the company : Bio-Oils Huelva
  • Country : Spain
  • Website:


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Biodiesel production in Spain was boosted by European regulation requiring the introduction of a mandatory percentage of biodiesel in diesel. This incentive led to the creation of Bio-Oils Huelva in 2006, the first biodiesel plant erected in the region of Huelva, at the southern border with Portugal. A market study carried out before the implementation of the project revealed a rising demand for biofuel in the region, promising a successful future for the company. Nearly two years were dedicated to the construction of the plant in the industrial area of Palos de la Frontera, a prime location with rail, sea and road connections. It is in the neighbourhood of another refinery, “La Rábida”. The commissioning of the plant took place in December 2008 and currently works with a 100% yield.

The initial capacity of the plant amounted to 250,000 tonnes of biodiesel per year, with a storage capacity for raw materials and finished products reaching already 100,000 m3. Since the beginning, the material used to feed the plant iscrude oils, such us crude palm oil, crude soybean oil, and crude rapeseed oil. To increase the circularity of the process, From 2015 Bio-oilshas also been working on the reuse of its by-products and residual raw materials such as used cooking oil, palm oil mill effluent and palm empty fruit bunch, and has built a dedicated unit to process and transform these materials into biofuels.

Since 2016, Bio-Oils belongs to an international holding company, RGE (Royal Golden Eagle). That same year, Bio-Oils doubled the plant’s production capacity to 480,000 tonnes of refined oil per year. To reach increased sustainability standards and adapt to future markets, Bio-Oils also created a new unit producing advanced biodiesel in 2018. The unit is already operational, and its production capacity will be expanded in the coming years thanks to improved process efficiency.

Currently, the activity of Bio-Oils is focused on the production of conventional and advanced biofuels, but plans have been made to diversify activities in the coming years with the production of high value-added compounds to cover the growing demand for bio-based products.

Bio Oils is an international corporation since 2016, and their plant Bio-Oils Huelva focuses its activities on the production of conventional and advanced biofuels, in addition to glycerine and soapstocks. The plant is able to process almost any kind of vegetable oil, as well as fatty materials of residual origin. The biodiesel capacity of the plant is currently being increased from 240,000 to 480,000 tonnes of advanced biodiesel per year.

In the past years, Bio-Oils has been intensively involved in Research and Development related to the production of biofuels from new sources, such as residual oils or microalgae and is actually planning to further expand its activities in that direction in the future. Bio-Oils will also diversify its product portfolio to include bio-based products in view of the rising market demand in that field and the potential to increase their revenues. 

The company owns one of the most efficient plants in Spain and also benefits from a strategic location with strong pipeline and cargo connections. The short-term expansion of its production capacities to 480.000 tonnes/year could soon make the Bio-Huelva plant the second largest producer of biofuels in Spain. Biofuel and refined oils retailers count amongst the company’s regular customers. Bio-Oils has several competitors on the Spanish market, but the flexibility of the plant located in Huelva allows the facility to accommodate the needs of a wide portfolio of clients. In addition to its ability to produce biofuels from a range of feedstocks, continuous quality monitoring to reach the highest standards (Standard EN 14214) and strong investments in Research and Development have made the company very competitive. Since the beginning, the sustainability of the transformation processes has always been at the heart of Bio-Oils strategy. With that in mind, the company is continuously improving the energy-efficiency of its processes while taking advantage of each residual material from the transformation process. The circular use of residual materials that would otherwise be disposed of allowed Bio-Oils Huelva to improve significantly the environmental impact of biofuels, making a great contribution to the overall sustainability of the sector. Prices for biodiesel are currently fixed on the market, but the expected diversification of Bio-Oils Huelva product portfolio from biofuels to bio-based products should help the company improve its margins. 

Maintaining high quality standards while adapting the processes to meet the needs of each client has been one of the most important technical challenges faced by the company in its first years.

The application of the European objectives in terms of biodiesel blends set by the first European Renewable Energy Directive (RED I) has been delayed in Spain due to successive changes of government, slowing down the growth of the company, but a progressive percentage has finally been established in 2015. The evolution of the regulatory framework for biofuels in the European Union planned with the enforcement of the updated Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) in 2021, will put additional pressure on conventional biofuels produced from first-use vegetable oils. Furthermore, increased sustainability standards will require further efforts from biofuels producers to make sure that their products emit 50% less greenhouse gases emissions than traditional fuels. Nonetheless, the production of advanced biofuels from sustainable sources, including a list of residual raw materials that are already being processed at Bio-Oils Huelva, will be strongly encouraged under the new Directive. This should support the efforts of the company to meet higher sustainability standards for its products.

In the coming years, the planned transformation of Bio-Oils Huelva into an even more flexible biorefinery will require further technical adaptations of the plant. The quality of the residual material fed into the plant will become even more variable, depending on the origin raw material and processes used for its production. Thanks to its strong investments in Research and Development, Bio-Oils is nonetheless ready to meet this next challenge to help producing more high-quality sustainable biofuels.

The initial investment to create Bio-Oils plant in Huelva amounted to 62 million Euros. 30% of the investment was financed by private investors, the rest being covered by bank loans. Securing a 7-year supply contract with an energy company was crucial to obtain the bank loans and convince future shareholders. Since its creation, a further 30 million Euros have been invested in the company, reflecting continuous process improvements and innovations. 

Bio-Oils has made from the beginning a firm commitment to Research and technological Development, understood as the search for new products or more efficient and sustainable production processes. The Research and Development Department has a highly qualified technical team and is supported by a perfectly equipped laboratory. Bio-Oils participates in many of the technical forums and working groups related to biofuels worldwide. Innovation has always played a crucial role in the history of the company with the aim of looking for innovative solutions to develop product quality, reduce emissions, waste, and energy consumption.

The flexible production concept will allow them to adapt to multiple types of feedstocks, which will soon enable them to use residual oils to a higher extend.. Not only can Bio-Oils adapt to a wide portfolio of raw materials, but the sustainability and quality of their products is being continuously improved thanks to the use of cutting-edge technological processes.

The strategic location of the plant combined with the strong commitment of the company to keep improving the quality of the products provided to its clients has been critical to the success of Bio-Oils Huelva. Important investments in Research and Development are also crucial for the capacity of the company to adapt continuously to new sustainability standards and new markets, in order to increase its margins and reduce its environmental impact. 

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