Contributing to a low-carbon economy through decarbonising the refinery sector


By Inna Kim, SINTEF, REALISE Project Coordinator 

Modern society depends on fuels and petrochemical feedstocks for making the products and services we use every day, meaning that oil refineries continue to play an important role. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies open up a viable route to decarbonising the refinery sector and helping nations worldwide develop low-carbon economies.

The REALISE project, which began in May 2020, applies the expertise of 14 partners from eight European countries and 2 partners from China to demonstrate the operability and effectiveness of CCUS within existing refinery-centred clusters of industry. 

The refineries have unique characteristics determined primarily by their location, available crude oil, market demand and specifications. A successful CO2 capture strategy for a specific refinery must carefully consider these aspects. 

Our research teams will assess innovative technologies for capturing CO2 from multiple sources and a decentralised approach to CCUS, along with societal readiness, in order to develop viable CO2-capture strategies for refineries of different complexities. 

REALISE is driven by a strong industrial consortium, including nine industrial partners and representing the complete technology value-chain. Our Advisory Board of external experts, including Concawe (a division of the European Pertroleum Refiners Association), SARAS, Petroineos, Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM) and the Global CCS Institute, will further contribute to replicating the concept and advising our strategy for further developing and demonstrating the technologies.

Jean-Marc Sohier, CONCAWE Director, wrote in his project support letter: “REALISE represents an opportunity to embrace the European Union’s long-term strategy of net-zero emissions by 2050 by exploring the potential of different low-carbon technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The technologies and focus that the project is pursuing align with Concawe’s Low Carbon Pathways programme. It will provide a better understanding of CCUS opportunities for the EU refinery industry and its techno-economic assessment".

Our project will apply a robust absorption technology for CO2 capture while bringing down the cost by applying several innovations, such as a novel low-energy solvent integrated with an advanced solvent and emission management technologies.  

Assessment of the full CCUS chain from emitter to storage will be carried out, taking advantage of the experience of consortium partners, who are already involved in CO2 transport and storage projects such as Northern Lights (Norway) and Ervia CCUS (Ireland).

We will also address socio-political aspects and calculate the societal readiness index for business cases relevant to partner refineries in Ireland and China. And emphasis will be placed on fostering public awareness by developing a programme for education and public engagement.