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Renewable Utilities for Refinery Operations

The oil and gas industry continues to face the challenge of the decline in the quality of oil reserves, which increases the energy intensity of the entire petroleum supply chain from production to refining. Increased integration of renewable technologies in oil and gas operations can help lower energy costs and meet stricter emissions standards. Also, by investing in renewable technologies refiners can take advantage of current government programs and incentives (e.g., subsidies, renewable portfolio standards, etc.) that promote renewable electricity use.

How it will benefit you

The transition from fossil fuels to renewables can accelerate decarbonization and help refiners to meet the net-zero emissions goals to which they have committed. In pursuing this pathway, refiners can take advantage of the continuing downward trajectory of renewable energy technology costs due to decreases in capital costs for these technologies, growing competition, and scalability and technology improvements.

Strong alternatives to fossil fuels are wind and solar energy, which are being increasingly used by companies to meet a portion of the electricity needs of their refineries. Other renewable energy sources include hydropower, biomass, and geothermal. Continued R&D improvements that lower costs and improve reliability may help to make these technologies more cost-competitive with both wind and solar.

What does it include

The current study, completed in 1Q 2022, begins with current GHG emissions and projected emissions for the future as energy demand recovers from the pandemic as well as GHG emissions reduction targets of countries throughout the world and a comparison of these targets for North American refiners and global oil majors.

The study also details the current usage of renewables for electricity generation as well as the advantages and disadvantages of using wind, hydropower, solar, biomass and geothermal. And, it discusses the main areas where renewables may be utilized in refineries, which includes process heating electrification, steam generation in electric boilers, grid electricity generation for combined heat and power plants, and the electrolysis of water as an alternative to conventional stream reforming for hydrogen production.

In terms of renewable energy technologies, wind turbine designs are discussed along with the trend observed in the last few decades of increasing turbine heights and rotor diameters. Also described are hydropower plants with a reservoir and run-of-river plants, instream hydrokinetic technologies, photovoltaic cells and concentrating solar power systems, the conversion of biomass to energy via anaerobic digestion and combustion, and dry steam, flash steam and binary cycle geothermal power plants.

Publication details

Publication frequency

Single publication

Publication format

Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file


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