Acelen investing in refining
With the sale of the Landulpho Alves Refinery (Rlam) and its associated logistics assets in Bahia by Petrobras to the Mubadala Capital Group, with the payment of US$ 1.8 billion to the state-owned company, the company Acelen was created to assume from December 1, 2021 the management of Rlam, which was renamed Mataripe Refinery. Acelen today has more than 1,200 employees distributed among the Mataripe Refinery, the Madre de Deus, Jequié, Itabuna, and Candeias Logistics Terminals in Bahia, an office in São Paulo and 4 operational branches in the States of Amazonas, Pará, Maranhão and Pernambuco. It is responsible for about 42% of the supply of the entire Northeast region, with an investment of more than R$ 1.1 billion in 2022. It operates in the production of fuels (diesel, gasoline, aviation kerosene, bunker oil, LPG, and fuel oils), lubricating base oils, petrochemical products, specialties (special gases, paraffins, solvents, and sulfur), and asphalt.
Who came to talk to us to talk a little more about Acelen’s plans for Brazil and bring important information about the projects are: the Technical Business Consultant for the Commercial, Trading, and shipping areas of the company, Angelo Cozzolino, and the Commercial Manager of Special Products, Rodrigo Vivarelli.
Lubes em Foco: It is a pleasure for our magazine to do this interview and also to know a little more about Acelen. We believe it has been a great challenge for the Mubadala group and we would like to know initially what are the biggest challenges for this project?
Acelen: Opening the refining sector, previously fully verticalized, is undoubtedly a great challenge in search of competitiveness, of a fair market, with fair competition conditions. The Mataripe Refinery is the second largest in Brazil, responsible for 14% of the country’s total refining capacity, 42% of the supply of the Northeast, and 80% of Bahia. That is why the guarantee of isonomy in the acquisition of the raw material is so important.
In addition, a large investment was required in the modernization of the plant, of R$1.1 billion in the first year of management alone, improving safety, environmental management, and production capacity by 22%.
Lubes em Foco: Recently, the company announced that it intends to invest R$12 billion Reais in the coming years to become a biorefinery on a global scale. What will this project look like and how long is it?
Acelen: Yes, Acelen will invest more than R$12 billion over the next 10 years in a renewable fuels project, with value generation throughout the chain, contributing substantially to accelerate the energy transition in Brazil. Acelen’s main bet will be the production of renewable aviation diesel and kerosene through Macaúba, a unique and transformative project with a native Brazilian plant, renewing the company’s commitment to a more sustainable future, inserting Brazil in the development of the global green economy.
To understand the correct size of the project, the planting area will be 200,000 hectares, prioritizing degraded land, the equivalent of 280,000 football fields. In addition to Macaúba, other plants with high energy potential will be cultivated, such as the Bahia Oil Palm. Throughout the project, the expectation is to produce one billion liters of green fuels per year, move R$85 billion in the economy, contribute to the generation of 90 thousand direct and indirect jobs, and reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80% with the replacement of fossil fuel, which will make the company one of the largest producers of renewable fuels in the world.
The project was structured to have total synergy with the Mataripe Refinery, taking advantage of the existing infrastructure of utilities, tanking, and logistics. A sustainable hydrogen generation unit will be built for the hydrotreatment of the fuels. The forecast is to start construction in 2024 and start production in the first quarter of 2026.
There will also be co-products of renewable raw materials that we may have applications in the specialties market. There will be new opportunities to be explored in the Brazilian and world markets.
Lubes em Foco: What are the investment plans for the base oils segment, aiming at improving the quality and increasing the technical reliability of the products?
Acelen: Brazil imports 40% of the base oils needed for the production of lubricants. In order to help change this scenario and transform the country’s energy and refining sector, Acelen has invested in the modernization of the Mataripe Refinery, optimizing its production with operational excellence. As a result of this work, in 2022, we increased our lubricant production by 162% and gained a 4% market share in the Brazilian market. Today, we account for more than 10% of the national production, and the lubricants processed in the unit are mainly destined for the automotive, industrial, and pharmaceutical markets.
In August 2023 we started the Scheduled Maintenance Shutdown of Distillation and Lubricant and Paraffin Units, where more than R$200 million will be invested, aiming to increase operational reliability and re-establish the projected processing capacity. The actions developed include interventions in more than 2,000 equipment, with the participation of more than 1,300 people during the Scheduled Shutdown.
It is an intense process of revitalization of the Refinery, increasing its reliability and the quality of the products.
Lubes em Foco: Are there any plans for Acelen to increase its market share of base oils in Brazil?
Acelen: Today we use only about 40% of our installed capacity. Our initial focus was to seek new oils for the production of lubricants and paraffins. This is a challenge to overcome. The goal now is to re-establish operational reliability and expand our base oil offer in the Brazilian market.
Acelen is a company on the move and we will continue to accelerate to reduce Brazil’s dependence on imports of base oils.
Lubes em Foco: Couldn’t the use of several different types of oil in the refinery interfere with properties that affect the performance of lubricants?
Acelen: Acelen follows strict international quality and safety protocols in its processes to ensure that refined products meet current standards and market needs. We also have our own laboratory that tests our productions for commercialization. When selecting the Petroleum we have already evaluated the characteristics, aiming at meeting the desired quality for the production of Lubricant Base Oils.
Lubes em Foco: How do you see Acelen’s relationship with the finished oil-producing market, in terms of technical support and formulation requirements?
Acelen: Acelen has been investing in order to constantly improve the quality of the Base Oil Lubricantl, currently used by more than 50 customers producing finished lubricants. In addition, we are developing Alternative Oils aiming at the guarantee of raw materials for the expansion of the production of Base Oils and product portfolio.
Lubes em Foco: Are there plans for the introduction of new viscosity grades of base oils on the market?
Acelen: In these first years we are seeking to improve the operational reliability of the Units and consequently the supply of the two main Base Oils produced by REFMAT, the Medium Neutral 220 and the Bright Stock 140.
From 2024, we will seek to expand the Lubricant Base Oil Portfolio with new products to be offered by Acelen.
Innovation is in Acelen’s DNA. We will look for new products to meet the needs of the market.
Lubes em Foco: When will Acelen return to produce Bright Stock in Mataripe?
Acelen: From October 2023, after the Scheduled Maintenance Shutdown, REFMAT will once again offer the Bright Stock 140 in its portfolio.
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