Excess heat utilisation in oil refineries - CCS and algae-based biofuels

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract: The main objective of this thesis is to investigate two different concepts for CO2 mitigation, from a system perspective, in relation to the oil refining industry: CO2 capture and storage; and algae-based biofuels. For all these processes, process integration with an oil refinery is assumed. The oil refinery sector is a major emitter of CO2 and is responsible for 9% of the industrial emissions of CO2 worldwide. Oil refineries have large amounts of unused excess heat, which can be used to satisfy the heat demands of a CO2 capture plant, a land-based algal cultivation facility, or an algae-based biofuel process. The use of this excess heat significantly reduces the cost for CO2 capture, while an economic evaluation for algae-based biofuels has not been made.

Since the amount of heat available from the oil refinery´s processes increase with decreasing temperature in the stripper reboiler, it was investigated how much heat was available at different temperatures. It was also investigated how the decreased temperature would affect the heat demand of CO2 capture processes that use MEA or ammonia as the absorbent. The findings show that it is possible to capture more CO2 using excess heat when the temperature in the stripper reboiler is decreased. For the MEA process, the lower limit of the temperature interval investigated showed the maximum CO2 capture rate, while the ammonia process benefitted from a lower temperature than the standard temperature but showed maximal CO2 capture rate above the lower limit. These results are valid only when using excess heat to satisfy the entire heat demand. At the case study refinery, the available excess heat could satisfy between 28% and 50% of the heat demand of the MEA process when treating the flue gases from all chimneys, depending on the temperature in the stripper reboiler. This utilisation of excess heat represents a way to reduce significantly the costs for CCS in an oil refinery.

Land-based cultivation of algae proved to be unsuitable for the utilisation of excess heat. Since the cultivation pond is exposed to wind, rain, and cold, the heat demand fluctuates strongly over the year, making the pond an unstable recipient of the excess heat.

Three types of biofuel processes based on microalgae and macroalgae were investigated with respect to integration with the oil refinery. For the algae-based biofuel processes, heat integration and material integration combined to increase the efficiency of the system. When two different build margin technologies (with different CO2 emission factors) are employed for electricity production, macroalgae-based biofuel production appears to be the more robust process from the perspective of CO2 due to the lower electricity demands of the algal cultivation and harvesting phases.