Publication Details

Title : Carbon Intensities of Refining Products in Petroleum Refineries with Co-processed Biofeedstocks
Publication Date : February 01, 2022
Authors : U. Lee, Z. Lu, P. Sun, M. Wang, V. DiVita, D. Collings
Abstract : Petroleum refineries increasingly seek to generate fuels with lower carbon intensities (CIs; a measure of life cycle greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions per unit of energy of fuel; well-to-wheel [WTW]) to meet growing demand. Co-processing refers to a process that adds biomass-derived feedstocks to the fossil-based feedstocks of existing petroleum refinery process units. With the use of biofeedstocks, it is expected that co-processed fuels would have lower CIs than their petroleum counterparts without requiring changes in the existing infrastructure for producing, transporting, and using fuels.

To quantify the GHG emissions reduction benefits of co-processing, this study uses a linear programming model to simulate petroleum refinery conditions with and without co-processing. The co-processing cases include three biofeedstocks (soy oil, tallow, and used cooking oil or UCO) used as 10 vol.% of the feedstock to a hydrotreater or hydrocracker since these lipid-based feedstocks have favorable properties to be treated in a hydrotreater or hydrocracker. In addition, we considered pyrolysis oil used as 10 vol.% of the feedstock to a fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit in the modeled refinery due to its higher oxygen content compared to other lipid-based feedstocks.

Life cycle analysis (LCA) using two distinct approaches—process-level energy allocation and a refinery-level marginal approach—has been conducted for each case. The LCA results using process-level allocation show that there are no noticeable changes in emissions or energy use impacts at the facility level. The life cycle GHG emission reductions of co-processing cases are mainly related to the fraction of biogenic carbon embedded in each fuel product. For example, co-processed jet fuels (a mixture of fossil and biogenic fuels) made via hydrotreating or hydrocracking have higher biogenic carbon, which results in jet fuel CI reductions of 3.9%–8.6% compared to the CI of baseline petroleum jet fuels on a WTW basis. However, analysis of co-processed pyrolysis oil in an FCC shows that a higher fraction of biofeedstocks (29%) becomes process emissions (i.e., CO and CO2), mainly due to the oxygenates in pyrolysis oil, and so it generates less renewable fuel than biofeedstocks co-processed via hydrotreating or hydrocracking.

Using the refinery-level marginal approach, the changes in energy use and emissions of co-processing cases compared to the petroleum-only baseline case are allocated to the changes in fuel production (assuming renewable fuels). This approach generates the life cycle GHG emission values of co-processed renewable fuels, which are comparable to the CIs of standalone biofuel production pathways. However, as this approach relies on a rough assumption that product yields and emissions from co-processing units on fossil feedstocks remain the same with and without biofeedstock inputs, co-processing cases like FCC pyrolysis oil may generate quite skewed results.

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