Customizing CO2 allocation using a new non-iterative method to reflect operational constraints in complex EU refineries

Abstract

Purpose

Developing a robust method for CO2 allocation in oil refineries is an ongoing debate within the life cycle assessment (LCA) community. Several methodologies reported in the literature, mostly performing sequential and iterative calculations, tend to be biased toward diesel at the expense of gasoline, failing to properly consider the role played by hydrogen. This paper develops a new non-iterative refinery CO2 allocation method to explore the concept of customized allocation to overcome the inherent bias in standard methods.

Methods

The allocation methodology is based on a system of linear equations built around the material and energy balances of a refinery. After describing the process of building such system, it is shown that the carbon allocation values of all final products and intermediate streams are directly obtained by solving it. A numerical example of CO2 emission allocation to major refinery products is provided from an optimized refinery linear programming (LP) case for the European refining industry, based on literature projections for 2020.

Results and discussion

The paper presents the key emission sources in the European refinery sector, and by using a standard mass-based allocation technique, we show that the carbon intensities of refined petroleum products derived using the non-iterative method are consistent with other studies. We confirm the findings that the standard allocation typically used in attributional refinery LCA tends to reward diesel to the detriment of gasoline. We attempted reconciling this by applying a reallocation factor to customize the CO2 allocation to represent the “real” economic purposes of process units reflecting the constraints European refineries face today. This moderated the octane production effects given the important role the reformer plays in hydrogen co-production, where the emission burden of highly knock-resistant reformate is redistributed to hydrogen and carried through to diesel.

Conclusions

By customizing the allocation of CO2, we demonstrated that the differences between a consequential and an attributional approach in refinery LCA can partly be reconciled. We now run into the risk of increasing the subjectivity of the attributional method by using “judgment calls” to decide on the choice of weightage to be applied. We invite the wider LCA practitioners to further investigate the use of this new non-iterative method for allocating CO2 and explore the concept of reallocation factors as means to customize emission allocation.

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Correspondence to Victor Gordillo.

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Responsible editor: Matthias Finkbeiner

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Gordillo, V., Rankovic, N. & Abdul-Manan, A.F. Customizing CO2 allocation using a new non-iterative method to reflect operational constraints in complex EU refineries. Int J Life Cycle Assess 23, 1527–1541 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-017-1380-1

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Keywords

  • Attributional
  • CO2 allocation
  • Fuel
  • GHG
  • Joint production
  • Linear programming
  • Non-iterative methodology
  • Oil refinery