Catalysis 2022 issue

Transition to net zero: steps to decarbonise the oil refining industry A reviewof the solutions being employed by oil refineries to reduce their Scope 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas emissions


D espite improvements in vehi- cle fuel economy, increasing adoption of hybrids, and EVs, petroleum-based fuel demand con- tinues to grow, at least in the short to mid-term. In general, demand is generated from population growth and increased car ownership, and both are increasing. However, dur- ing the pandemic, people concerned about health moved around less. Consequently, there was a sharp decline in fuel demand, which had an adverse impact on the global oil and oil refining system. However, chemicals demand was sustained, as chemicals are used in many everyday products. For a small number of refineries, which were able to convert fuel molecules to chemicals, the sustained chemicals demand allowed them to stabilise profitability during the pandemic. This provided a glimpse of the future. In the future, we imagine demand for fossil-sourced hydrocarbon fuels will decline due to increas- ing global efforts to fight climate change, including the introduction of a carbon tax in many countries. Therefore, refineries need solutions to decarbonise fuels production. Furthermore, as petroleum-based fuel demand decreases, chemical production is a route to stabilise and grow oil refining margins. In fact, highly profitable oil refineries already produce a high percent- age of chemicals, and demand for chemicals is expected to increase. Therefore, it seems likely many oil refineries will seek solutions to expand their capability to make chemicals.

Comparison of hydrogen production technologies






Natural gas

Natural gas

Renewable electricity


Steammethane reforming

Advanced reforming





Highest GHG

Highest GHG emissions

Low GHG emissions

Potential for zero GHG emissions $3-7.5 per kg H 2

emissions (19 tCO 2 /tH 2 )

(11 tCO 2 /tH 2 ) $1-2.1 per kg H 2

(0.5 tCO 2 /tH 2 ) $1.5-2.9 per kg H 2

$1.2-2.1 per kg H 2

Table 1

In this article, Johnson Matthey introduces solutions being employed by oil refineries to reduce their Scope 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: • Scope 1 solutions reduce direct GHG emissions from the company’s processes • Scope 2 solutions reduce indirect GHG emissions from imported elec- tricity and steam • Scope 3 solutions reduce other indirect GHG emissions, including decarbonising fuels production and increasing chemical manufacturing. Scope 1: Reduce direct emissions from the process itself A sensible first step is to reduce the emissions from the existing process units. Plant monitoring and bench- marking can be used to identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency. In addition, sophisticated catalyst performance monitoring allows operators to increase cycle length, and therefore improve the utilisation of natural resources such as base metals, precious metals, and catalyst materials. In many factories, hydrogen is an important utility, used to make products, and produce electric- ity and steam. Presently, steam

methane reforming (SMR) is used to make the most of the refinery hydrogen. The reformer in this pro- cess produces carbon dioxide (CO 2 ). Johnson Matthey offers a range of Katalco services aimed at improving plant reliability, efficiency, through - put, safety, and environmental performance. In addition, we have recently established a Low Carbon Solution business that is address - ing the decarbonisation of existing syngas facilities. Johnson Matthey is leveraging its capabilities in existing scalable technologies, especially in steam reforming. One of the early offerings is a SMR revamp that allows operators to capture the pro- cess CO 2 , which can then be used as a feedstock or stored. This solu- tion allows the hydrogen plant CO 2 emissions to be reduced by up to 95%. The cost of the revamp is sig- nificantly less than building a new hydrogen plant. Hydrogen produced using SMR is called grey hydrogen, because it uses non-renewable feeds to pro- duce hydrogen and CO 2 , and the CO 2 is typically released to the atmosphere. More environmentally friendly alternatives are blue and green hydrogen. In the blue hydro- gen flowsheet, the by-product CO 2

Catalysis 2022 23

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