NEW YORK — Sustainability has been a driver of innovation and investment in the past few years, and Bunge views renewable feedstocks and vegetable oils as very important to energy companies’ liquid fuels transition in the next 10 to 15 years, Gregory Heckman, chief executive officer and director, said during a May 17 presentation at the BMO Capital Markets Global Farm to Market Conference.
Heckman said energy companies see renewable diesel as an important pathway, ultimately, to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and then perhaps marine fuel as the market plays out and government regulators set renewable volume obligations (RVO). Bunge considers its own strategy of investments and mergers and acquisitions well-situated to meet the demand for low-carbon fuels.
“There will need to be some policy support for SAF and for marine long term,” Mr. Heckman said. “It (the market) continues to develop, and that’s why you see the investments being made in innovation around the seed side, in innovation at the farm gate to lower the CI (carbon intensity) scores …”
St. Louis-based Bunge operates crush plants around the world — at both origins and destinations. Its processing capacity covers South America, North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, including both soy crush and soft seed crush such as rapeseed, canola and sunflower.
The emerging renewable energy market has done some of the work that has incentivized expansion and partnerships in oilseed processing, Mr. Heckman said.
Bunge entered a joint venture with energy producer Chevron Corp. in 2022, invested in rotational grain crop CoverCress as a biofuel source for Chevron as part of that partnership and joined a canola collaboration with Corteva Agriscience and Chevron to create proprietary hybrids for the southern United States that yield a plant-based oil with a lower carbon profile. Bunge and Nutrien Ag Solutions also have entered an agreement to support US farmers in implementing sustainable practices that will help increase the development of lower carbon products, starting with soybeans.
“I think one of the keys with our joint venture with Chevron is that it’s not a supplier-customer relationship, so we are able to talk about policy,” Mr. Heckman said. “We are able to talk about changes that we can make in the farm gate or in our refineries. They can talk about how things work in their refineries and where they believe their ultimate retail customer is going today and where they believe policy is going.
“With Corteva and Chevron, we’re now making investment in winter canola, another high-oil seed crop that can be another profit point for the producer, but also to increase the amount of renewable feedstock to serve that industry so we can continue to serve food, feed and fuel industry. It all continues to weave together as well as the assets to support that.”
Beyond its relationship with Chevron, Bunge is looking globally to build out a low-cost, low carbon intensity supply chain as policy continues to develop, he said, noting canola demand in Canada and Bunge’s joint venture with Olleco in Europe that covers the entire life-cycle of edible oils to be sure used cooking oil is collected and used as a feedstock for renewable fuels.
“What’s been amazing is how excited our end customers are about that (Olleco) and looking at where else we can replicate that globally,” Mr. Heckman said. “So the different growth levers that are appearing around the renewable diesel demand and ultimately SAF, it's not even clear how it's all going to play out, but we've got a lot of resources working, and we’re fully engaged now.”