Emissions from Oil Refining
Petroleum refineries are complex systems of multiple linked operations that convert the refinery crude and other intake into useful products. A refinery uses large quantities of energy to heat process streams, promote chemical reactions, and provide steam and generate power. This is usually accomplished by the combustion of fuels in boilers, furnaces, heaters, gas turbines, and generators that result in emissions. Production of MSAR® within a refinery does not result in any change to these emissions, unless consumed internally to benefit NOx and particulates.
Refinery residual fuels have higher levels of sulphur and impurities than distillate fuels, such as gas oil or diesel. Therefore, where environmental legislation dictates, either emissions scrubbing equipment is required or a switch to distillate (or other low sulphur) fuel is needed for compliance purposes.
This is especially relevant in the marine fuels sector, where MARPOL fuel sulphur limits reduced to 3.50% in 2012, with a further reduction to 0.50% coming into effect 1st January 2020. Furthermore, Emission Control Areas (ECA’s) are becoming more prevalent, with marine fuel sulphur limits reduced to 0.10% in 2015 in sensitive regions such as The Baltic and North Sea as well as the USA, Canada and China.
There is a global debate currently as to whether there will be sufficient distillate fuels available to meet this potential future demand. Furthermore, refinery owners are questioning whether to invest in the necessary upgrading equipment, especially as the financial returns for these billion-dollar investments are uncertain and the overall environmental impact (including the much-increased CO2 emissions) may be worse from cradle to grave when compared with the status quo of fuel oil plus scrubbing on the vessel.
At a macro level, any refinery converting to MSAR® technology increases the output of distillate hydrocarbons and reduces the number of hydrocarbons in the conventional fuel oil “pool”. The investment for MSAR® is several orders of magnitude less than the conventional upgrading alternative and the environmental impact for the refiner is significantly lower.
If some of the refinery cost savings for MSAR® versus fuel oil production are passed to the consumer, the capital cost of upgrading existing assets (including scrubbing equipment) can be subsidised. This concept of “affordable compliance” guides Quadrise in commercialising MSAR®.
Emissions from Combustion
Globally, legislation is increasingly more stringent to reduce the emissions from fossil fuels to limit the environmental impact and risks to human health from:
- Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) – a significant pollutant of the lower atmosphere that contributes to smog formation can react to form nitric acid vapour and related particles. Inhalation of these particles can cause respiratory disease or lung damage, causing premature death in extreme cases.
- Particulate Matter (PM) – found in the atmosphere can be from natural or man-made sources, those from the latter currently account for about 10% of the total amount of aerosols. Increased levels of PM in the air are linked to health hazards such as heart disease, altered lung function and lung cancer.
- Black Carbon (or Soot) – are impure carbon particles resulting from the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons which associates with PM. These include residual pyrolysed fuel particles, some of which are classified as human carcinogens. Black Carbon has the ability to warm the earth by absorbing heat in the atmosphere and reducing the ability, on deposition, for snow and ice to reflect sunlight and has been classified as the second largest contributor to global warming other than carbon dioxide and methane.
- Sulphur Oxides (SOx) – reacts with other substances in the atmosphere to form harmful compounds, such as sulphuric acid, sulphurous acid and sulphate particles. Short-term exposures can harm the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult, particularly for children, the elderly, and those who suffer from asthma. SOx can also react with other compounds in the atmosphere to form small particles that can penetrate the lungs and cause additional health problems. At high concentrations, gaseous SOx can harm trees and plants by damaging foliage and decreasing growth and can contribute to acid rain that harms sensitive ecosystems. Emissions of SOx do however contribute to reducing the impact of global warming.
- Greenhouse Gases (Predominantly Carbon Dioxide and Methane) – over the past several decades, rising concentrations of greenhouse gases have been detected in the Earth's atmosphere. Although there is not universal agreement within the scientific community on the impacts of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, it has been theorised that they may lead to an increase in the average temperature of the Earth's surface.
Modern combustion and emissions abatement technologies are today increasingly installed in industrial facilities to reduce the impact of emissions to the environment and human health. MSAR® fuel is fully compliant with such technologies and has favourable features that reduce some of the environmental impacts from combustion including NOx, PM/Soot.