The Role of Palm Oil in the Energy Transition

March 12, 2024
Grupo BBF

The Role of Palm Oil in the Energy Transition

energy transition

What is the energy transition? What are the drivers contributing to accelerating this process? What role does palm oil play in the energy transition?
In this article, we explore the impact of palm cultivation on the energy transition, highlighting how palm oil is becoming a promising alternative for replacing traditional fuels.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a robust energy efficiency strategy, combined with an increase in renewable energies to replace fossil fuels, represents the most realistic path to halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

What is the energy transition?

Amid the growing challenge of global warming, data from the IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - indicates a significant increase in the planet's temperature. This phenomenon, driven mainly by greenhouse gas emissions, results in serious consequences, including "increases in land and ocean temperatures, as well as more frequent heat waves in most land regions. There is also evidence that global warming has resulted in an increase in the frequency and duration of marine heat waves. In addition, there is substantial evidence that human-induced global warming has led to an increase in the frequency, intensity and/or amount of heavy precipitation events on a global scale, as well as an increased risk of drought in the Mediterranean." (source: IPCC

In order to achieve this goal, it is necessary to transform the energy matrix. The energy transition consists of changing the current energy system, predominantly based on fossil fuel sources, to a more sustainable and renewable model, characterized by low or zero carbon emissions. Through the energy transition, we aim to reduce dependence on non-renewable resources, mitigate environmental impacts and promote cleaner and more efficient energy sources, with a view to a sustainable future.

In this transition, vegetable oils play an important role as a promising alternative for replacing fossil fuels with biofuels. Oils such as palm and soybean are used to generate energy, helping to reduce dependence on petrochemicals and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, promoting sustainability in the energy sector in the long term.

Palm Oil in Biofuel Production

palm oil - laboratory

Palm oil stands out as a highly efficient source for biofuel production, offering a sustainable solution. Its low carbon footprint positions it as a potential alternative for biodiesel production, replacing fossil diesel to power engines and machinery in a more environmentally friendly way. In addition, its versatility allows it to be used in existing engines without the need for modifications, making it a practical and environmentally friendly option.

Faced with palm oil's enormous potential for biofuel production, Brazil is already putting innovations into practice. The aviation market, still lacking in renewable solutions, should be the next to benefit from fuel produced from palm oil.

A leading player on the national agenda for advanced biofuels, Grupo BBF will start producing Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and Green Diesel (RD) from 2026. The raw material for these new biofuels will be palm oil grown by the company in the Amazon region. Refining will be carried out at the first biorefinery in the country to produce the unprecedented biofuels on an industrial scale, which is expected to open in 2026. More than R$2.2 billion will be invested in the new plant, which will have the capacity to produce around 500 million liters per year of the unprecedented SAF and Green Diesel biofuels.

It is also worth mentioning that palm oil stands out as the main raw material for the production of SAF and Green Diesel due to its chemical chain - identical to that of fossil fuels in the C16 and C18 carbon chain - and its high efficiency in oil production.

Electricity Generation

Palm oil is also an efficient raw material for generating clean electricity. Grupo BBF , for example, has 25 thermoelectric plants in operation in the Amazon region, using biofuels (biodiesel and vegetable oil) and biomass from palm oil, serving more than 140,000 residents in the northern region of Brazil. The plants remove more than 98 million liters of fossil diesel a year and reduce the emission of around 250,000 tons of carbon equivalent from the Amazonian atmosphere. Boosting energy efficiency and contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable energy matrix.

Biotechnology driving the energy transition

Renewable inputs from palm oil and palm kernel oil also aim to replace the use of petrochemicals in the agricultural, cosmetics, food, cleaning and pharmaceutical sectors. This alternative offers a greener solution and contributes to reducing the environmental footprint.

Palm oil is valued for its beneficial properties for the skin and hair, and is a versatile and effective raw material. Its use provides high quality products, reinforcing companies' environmental responsibility. By adopting sustainable inputs from biotechnology, such as those produced by Grupo BBF 's biotechnology unit (BBF BioTech), which uses vegetable oils such as palm oil and palm kernel oil grown sustainably in the Amazon region, the cosmetics industry is making a direct contribution to boosting the energy transition by eliminating petrochemical products from its formulations.


green pre-salt grupo bbf

Responsible palm oil production is crucial to guaranteeing standing forests and maintaining its position as the most consumed oil in the world. Choosing renewable products that follow sustainable agricultural practices boosts the transition to cleaner energy sources.

Today, through sustainable palm cultivation, Grupo BBF cultivates more than 75,000 hectares of palm in the states of Pará and Roraima, recovering areas of forest that were degraded in the past, as well as capturing more than 800,000 tons of carbon in the Amazon rainforest through its plantations.

Brazil, however, has a great opportunity to cultivate oil palm in a sustainable way on around 31 million hectares of degraded areas in the Amazon region, according to extensive work carried out by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). The Brazilian legislation for oil palm cultivation, established by Decree 7.172 in 2010 by the Federal Government, is considered the strictest in the world in this sector, as it only allows oil palm cultivation in areas that were anthropized in the Amazon region until December 2007.

Brazilian palm oil production is environmentally and socially sustainable. For 15 years, Grupo BBF has been offering solutions to replace fossil fuels, working throughout the production chain to guarantee the efficiency of the proposed solutions and contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable future.

Find out more about our activities, from palm cultivation to electricity generation by visiting: Our Business.

bbf logo symbol - drop
Grupo BBF
BBF Group | Brasil BioFuels