Honeywell UOP’s century of innovation is powering customer evolution 

Over the last century, Honeywell UOP’s engineers and chemists have shaped the refining, petrochemical and gas processing industries by turning laboratory science into industrial reality.

Honeywell UOP processes produce the fuels that power cars, trucks, jets, and trains. They purify the natural gas that heats homes and serves as a source of lower carbon power generation. Biodegradable detergents and the plastic resins, films and fibers used in commercial goods, packaging and fabrics are made with technologies from Honeywell UOP.

The organization continues to innovate to create flexible, future-forward and sustainable solutions that address the challenges of an ever-changing world. Honeywell UOP strives to create cleaner fuels by developing processes that reduce emissions and produce renewable fuel sources.

“Honeywell UOP is a well-known technology provider in the energy space, with expertise in working with customers over the past century,” says Kevin O’Neil, Senior Business Leader, Honeywell UOP. “The organization practically invented oil refining processes which were the starting point for the business. Over the years, we’ve achieved many things. In the most basic sense, we develop technology and license it. So, we don’t build refineries ourselves, but rather provide customers with technology solutions and licenses to deploy in their operations.

“Our industry-leading R&D enables us to invent and develop technologies to create and improve energy development,” Kevin continues. “We own the intellectual property and serve our customers who want to use it. We’ve driven efficient production of fuels, improved their quality, reduced emissions through catalytic converters and today, focus on petrochemicals to improve quality of living. In recent years, in line with the energy transition, we’re providing more renewable fuels and sustainable technologies, using our established R&D platform and the same model we’ve deployed for over 100 years. As such, our experience in the energy sector is extensive.”

As the world transitions to lower carbon energy, Honeywell UOP’s process technologies, equipment and lifecycle solutions are helping customers generate the most value from every drop of oil and every cubic foot of natural gas. And through connected software, Honeywell UOP is helping customers become more efficient and profitable through digital tools that ensure plants are running at the peak of their capability.

“The transition towards renewable fuels has actually been enabled by many of our basic technologies applied in new ways,” Kevin says. “Today, we’re looking at different types of oils, for example seed and cooking oils, to produce the same types of fuels for which we’ve historically used crude or petroleum. It’s a natural transition for us and well within our DNA.”

Making a lower carbon future a reality
Honeywell UOP is reimagining refining. It has applied its rich history in innovation to the development of its diversified technology portfolio for renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuels. Whether applied to more traditional biofuels, or those that are strictly ethanol based, these conversion technologies hold real promise for the next generation of fuels.

“Honeywell UOP established a sustainable technology solutions business a few years ago that focuses on deploying these new sustainability-based technologies,” Kevin continues. “I manage licensing activity and technology development and deployment for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). These technologies enable quantities of materials to be produced at scale to reduce carbon emissions in that sector and support their goal of becoming carbon neutral.”

Honeywell UOP offers multiple routes to market using a variety of feedstocks, including Ecofining™ technology that utilizes fats, oils and greases, the recently launched Ethanol to Jet technology and the latest breakthrough technology, called Honeywell UOP eFining™ that uses eMethanol from green hydrogen and recycled CO₂.

“The Ecofining™ technology is well-established,” Kevin explains. “It’s technology that we’ve been licensing since the early 2000s, with our first license in 2007. The first US plant came into production in 2013, and we’ve since licensed a further 50 around the world. We’re seeing significant demand for this technology and it’s one that’s become commercially mature.

“Ecofining was the first wave of sustainable fuel technology and now, Ethanol to Jet is following suit. Our Ethanol to Jet technology is a combination of a couple of different processing steps. It starts with feedstock ethanol which is widely available in certain parts of the world. The US produces more than 17 billion gallons per year of ethanol as a gasoline blending component and is the world’s main producer, followed by Brazil. So, there’s a lot of infrastructure in existence. While the ethanol produced right now is mostly blended with gasoline in the US, as we transition away from gasoline powering internal combustion engines to electric cars, we’ll see a surplus of ethanol available that can easily be diverted to jet fuel.

“There needs to be additional processing to take the ethanol that’s currently produced to make jet fuel, but the necessary processing steps are well established. We’ve got extensive experience with those different steps to convert ethanol to jet fuel efficiently, economically, and at scale.

“The market is already adopting this technology which we began offering in late 2022. We sold three licenses last year and have several other customers pursuing licenses with us. Our innovation in SAF technology continued and in May 2023, we introduced Honeywell UOP eFining™. Without using any kind of fossil or other hydrocarbon source, green hydrogen can be produced from renewable electric power. We then convert green hydrogen into methanol that becomes jet fuel using the eFining technology. Converting methanol to olefins is a well-established technology that we’ve deployed for several years to produce petrochemical olefins. We can take the olefins – and rather than converting them into petrochemicals – they can be turned into jet fuel using processing steps that are very similar to those of our Ethanol to Jet technology. It’s a combination of the same proven technologies,” he explains.

Diversifying feedstocks and production methods is critical to meet the large and growing needs of the world’s aviation market. “The diesel made from renewable sources that comes from Ecofining can be added directly into the diesel pool,” Kevin notes. “It doesn’t need to be upgraded nor do engines need to be modified, which is equally true of the sustainable aviation fuel produced with our Ethanol to Jet and eFining™ technology. This is drop-in replacement fuel that is ready to be deployed today. They offer a feasible and economic way to make significant progress in reducing carbon emissions.

“World Energy is a great customer of ours and a shining example of a successful partnership,” he says. “We licensed our Ecofining™ technology to World Energy back in 2013 and they converted a refinery in Paramount, CA, to produce sustainable aviation fuel from renewable feedstocks. They started operating one of the first commercial plants to produce sustainable aviation fuel and have been supplying it in the Los Angeles area since 2016. They’ve recently announced further expansion and have had considerable success with our technology.”

A critical partnership for Honeywell UOP is with Eni, a global technology-driven energy company based in Italy that’s actively supporting a socially fair energy transition by creating long-term value. The company has collaborated with Honeywell UOP on its technology for two decades.

“Eni is a great partner of ours,” Kevin says. “They not only develop the technology, they’re also a very successful operator. In the Ecofining™ space, Diamond Green Diesel is probably the highest profile licensee of ours. They’ve licensed three plants on a very large scale and recently announced plans to produce sustainable aviation fuel.

“We’ve also signed licenses with major companies like BP, Total Energies, and Tüpraş. When we sign a license arrangement with a customer, that’s the start of our collaboration with them. While major energy companies will develop their own technology, they may not require a license from us. However, we connect with companies across the spectrum to ensure Honeywell UOP remains at the leading edge of R&D and technical development.”

Looking to the future
Kevin notes Honeywell’s goal is to achieve carbon neutral operations by 2035. “We’re facilitating that with all the work we do to support our customers. We develop and launch the technologies that enable the attainment of sustainability goals. We’ve got other technologies in our sustainable solutions business that will drive decarbonization. From carbon capture and sequestration to green and blue hydrogen, there are several technologies that reduce emissions. Plastic circularities/recycling is another area of focus to improve the planet, along with long duration energy storage that will enable renewable electric power sources to be deployed on a world scale.

“Those are some of the key areas that we’re working on,” Kevin adds. “We’re trying to realize the carbon neutrality vision, not just within our company, but in industry and society in general. We are always looking at new things; at what we can do beyond what we’re doing today and there are many other ideas that are coming through our pipeline. Our criteria are that the technology must be scalable, economically feasible, and impactful to helping customers achieve their sustainability goals.”