June 6, 2023

cepsa and the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) have signed an agreement to investigate the feasibility of planting energy cover crops in different rural areas of Spain. These crops are called cover crops because they protect the soil from erosion between the main sowing and energy periods because they produce the organic matter necessary to produce second generation (2G) biofuels.

The objective of this collaboration, the first of these characteristics carried out by the scientific institution with an energy company, is to carry out a technical-economic study of different areas of the country and determine where these crops could be planted. In addition to the feasibility of planting, the study, which will last one year, will also analyze the most suitable types of crops in each area, as well as their CO2 absorption capacity, thus identifying those that are most beneficial in environmental terms. .

In this way, Cepsa will be able to complement its sources of supply of raw materials for the production of this type of biofuels, one of the main challenges for the industry, while promoting greater autonomy in Spain in terms of supply and energy independence.

According to Javier Antúnez, director of Biofuels at Cepsa: “The objective of this agreement with the CSIC is to expand the obtaining of circular raw materials for the production of second-generation biofuels, which allow us to promote the decarbonization of sectors whose electrification is complex, such as heavy transport by road, sea or air, while generating new economic and development opportunities for the Spanish countryside.”

For his part, Leonardo Velasco, a researcher at the CSIC’s Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (IAS), has assured: “In Spain there is potential for the introduction of non-food crops on land not used for food production or at times of the year in which the soil is not cultivated. CSIC research groups have spent years investigating new crops that can provide raw materials for the production of biofuels within a sustainable management of natural resources such as soil and water. In addition to providing renewable energy sources, these crops help protect the soil from erosion and improve the carbon balance of farms”.

The CSIC’s participation in this project is part of the agency’s policy of transferring its research results to the private sector, the main way for public research to have a real impact on society. In this sense, this initiative is led by the Green Horizon Interdisciplinary Thematic Platform and it involves, from a multidisciplinary vision, researchers from three CSIC centers: the Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (IAS), the National Institute of Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA) and the Institute of Fat (IG).

Opportunity for rural development

Cover crops are grown between sowing periods of the main crops in order to protect the soil from erosion. In addition, they provide other advantages for agricultural production and environmental care, such as increasing soil fertility, by providing nutrients and improving its texture; the increase in the capacity of retention of rainwater, or a greater absorption of CO2. Likewise, these crops can be grown on degraded land, such as those that have suffered fires, helping their recovery.

These crops are considered “energy” because part of the biomass produced can be used to generate energy, as well as being used to make livestock feed. The harvested product, since it does not compete with food, can be used in the production of second generation biofuels.

By promoting this type of crop, farmers are able to maximize the profitability of the same piece of land, increasing its quality, diversifying their income and maintaining activity throughout the year. Thus, in addition to obtaining raw materials for the production of second-generation biofuels, this type of crop fosters the fixation of the population in the rural areas of emptied Spain and increases their opportunities for job creation and economic development.

Since 2023, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) rewards farmers and ranchers who carry out at least one voluntary sustainable practice, among others, the development of cover crops in woody crops, such as olive groves or fruit tree plantations.

2G biofuels to decarbonise transport

The use of biofuels can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90% compared to traditional fuels, which is why they are a key element to enable a fair energy transition and promote the decarbonisation of transport, especially in sectors in which the electrification is complex, such as heavy transport by road, sea and air.

This agreement responds to Cepsa’s objective of leading the manufacture of 2G biofuels in Spain and Portugal. By 2030, the company will have an annual production capacity of 2.5 million tons of biofuels, of which 800,000 tons will be Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), a quantity of sustainable aviation fuel Enough to fly over the planet 2,000 times.

Within the framework of its 2030 strategy, Positive Motion, the company is promoting the development of an ecosystem focused on accelerating its decarbonization and that of its customers, through the production of green molecules, mainly renewable hydrogen and 2G biofuels, to become a benchmark of the energy transition.

In its strategic plan, Cepsa has established a roadmap to cut its emissions, which is among the most ambitious in its sector. Specifically, in 2030, it will reduce its CO2 emissions (scope 1 and 2) by 55% and its carbon intensity index by 15-20%, with the aim of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Cepsa wants to go further beyond net zero and achieve a positive impact, adding value to the communities where it is present by allowing its clients and other stakeholders to move in the right direction.

Some objectives related to basic research developed at the CSIC, where various teams work to promote the energy transition towards a model based on renewable energy, less dependent on fossil fuels. The lines of research that explore new methods to produce hydrogen obtained from renewable energies (green hydrogen), to capture CO2 emissions linked to industrial activity, to transform the remains of agricultural and forestry industries into biofuels or to recover raw materials stand out. essential within the transport electrification process.

The development and use of biofuels contributes to several of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda: Affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), Decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), Responsible production and consumption (SDG 12) and Action by climate (SDG 13).

About Cepsa

cepsa is a leading international company committed to sustainable mobility and energy with solid technical expertise after more than 90 years of activity. The company also has a world-leading chemical business with an increasingly sustainable activity.

In 2022, Cepsa has presented its new strategic plan for 2030, Positive Motion, which projects its ambition to be a leader in sustainable mobility, biofuels and green hydrogen in Spain and Portugal, and to become a benchmark in the energy transition. The company places customers at the center of its activity and will work with them to help them advance their decarbonization goals.

The ESG criteria inspire all of Cepsa’s actions to move towards its positive net objective. Over the course of this decade, it will reduce its scope 1 and 2 CO2 emissions by 55% and its carbon intensity index by 15-20%, with the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

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