NetZero Live 2023: Minimising Refinery Carbon Emissions
Eva Andersson, Senior Refinery Process Specialist in Swedish head office of Camberley-based heat transfer, separation and fluid handling specialists Alfa Laval, explores how to implement carbon capture technologies at refineries with least capital and operational expenditure.
I attended NetZero Live 2023 last month to give a presentation on a topic that will be integral to making refineries more sustainable – optimize your carbon capture process (CCU) to minimize project capital and operational expenditure.
Alongside the opportunity to reduce scope 1 carbon dioxide emissions with up to 25% with the energy efficiency improvements our heat transfer technology offers, carbon capture will be needed to bring those emissions closer to zero. Put simply, it is a key enabling technology option if we are to hit the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement and that industry is committing to the market.
CCU – A History
CCU is not new – capture processes have existed for over 30 years. However, the capital and operational expenditure this entails have hampered previous efforts to introduce the technology to refineries at scale.
Yet this isn’t an insurmountable barrier, especially given growing enthusiasm for the introduction of capture units at industrial plants. However, more attention must be paid to process and equipment design optimisations to make carbon capture more commercially viable. Together with Worley/Advisian, Alfa Laval has published a paper on just this topic, outlining solutions to reduce the cost of capture to more than 20 EUR / ton captured.
Pertaining to Process Optimisation
When investing in new processes, involving critical suppliers with experience in process design optimisation, is key to achieve maximal performance of the new plant. This activity must be done before the process design is frozen, in order to not lose both time and money for costly last-minute revisions. Executing a process optimization already during basic design phase also speeds up the detailed engineering phase, often cutting this project phase with half.
Consequently, engaging third party specialists is vital for achieving both process and project efficiency.
Ensuring Effective Equipment Specification
These sustainable steps will improve operational expenditure, which can be complemented by informed process equipment selection. Specifically, high-performing heat exchanger technologies are crucial to CCU’s commercial viability, so should be front-of-mind when auditing existing processes.
Seeking out suppliers experienced in developing and delivering the widest range of efficient heat exchangers will be key to minimising capital and operational expenditure of new CCU plants.
With the sector looking to scale up decarbonisation efforts, refinery professionals should review all available options. Of these, CCU technology offers a highly effective way to reduce the scope 1 emissions, and I would urge them to contact experts in the supply chain to explore further options.