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Imperial invests $720M for renewable diesel facility

IMAGE: Imperial Oil's existing Strathcona facility
Imperial Oil's existing Strathcona facility. (Courtesy Imperial Oil Ltd.)

Imperial Oil Ltd. will invest approximately $720 million in the construction of its renewable diesel complex to be located at its existing Strathcona refinery near Edmonton.

The project is expected to produce more than one billion litres of renewable diesel annually, primarily from locally sourced feedstocks.

Imperial states it could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Canadian transportation sector by about three million metric tonnes per year compared to conventional fuels. This is equivalent to taking more than 650,000 passenger vehicles off the road.

“Imperial supports Canada’s vision for a lower-emission future, and we are making strategic investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our own operations and to help customers in vital sectors of the economy reduce their emissions,” Brad Corson, Imperial's (IMO-T) chairman, president and CEO, said in a statement.

According to Imperial, it will be the largest renewable diesel facility in the country.

The site preparation and initial construction are underway, with plans to begin renewable diesel production by 2025. It is expected to create around 600 construction jobs.

Imperial expects regulatory approval in the near-term.

Imperial’s renewable diesel project

Imperial’s facility will use what it states is low-carbon hydrogen produced with carbon capture and storage technology and biofeedstocks to produce renewable diesel. In September, the company announced an agreement with industrial gas supplier Air Products and Chemicals for the latter to supply what it states will be low-carbon hydrogen via pipeline from its in-construction Edmonton plant.

Imperial expects to capture approximately 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

Air Products (APD-N) will supply Strathcona with approximately 50 per cent of hydrogen output from its 165 million standard cubic feet per day complex. The off-take agreement also saw Air Products increase its investment in the hydrogen facility to $1.6 billion from $1.3 billion.

The low-carbon hydrogen and biofeedstock will be combined with a proprietary catalyst to produce the fuel.

“We’ve been doing R and D in that clean-energy space for a long time. Renewable diesel is something that the last few years we’ve been looking into, if this was an area that would fit into our portfolio and with some of our ambitions,” Keri Scobie, Imperial’s public and government affairs manager at the Strathcona refinery told SustainableBiz at the time. “What we want to do is to play our part in helping Canada reach net-zero by 2050.”

Renewable diesel

Many vehicles can accept 100 per cent renewable diesel, while the fuel can be used in up to a 50 per cent mix in aviation.

The company had cited various third-party studies that have shown renewable diesel from various non-petroleum feedstocks can provide life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 40 per cent to 80 per cent compared to petroleum-based diesel. 

Renewable diesel can be made from animal fats, food waste and plant oils. Imperial has yet to finalize the feedstocks that will be used, although according to Scobie it could be stocks like “canola, soy or camelina” oils.

A recent release states Imperial is developing agreements with other third-parties for biofeedstock supply, along with the mention that they would be “locally sourced.”

The project was first announced in August 2021, with the B.C. government providing support via a Part 3 agreement under the B.C. low carbon fuel standard in exchange for “a significant portion” of the renewable diesel. Imperial will also use the fuel in its own emissions reduction plans.

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