Refining Clean Fuels for the Future

Abstract : To which extent transportation fuels will reasonably be changed in the coming years? GPL and natural gas are expected to challenge conventional fuels, hydrogen and methanol are bounded to possible fuel cells development. Among others, security of supply, competitive economics and environmental protection issues will be the key to the changes in the coming years. But taking into account expected transportation development, liquid fuels from oil should prevail as the reference energy. Though most of technologies and catalysts needed for the future are still existing or under marketing plans, the industry has to cope with the growing share of middle distillates. Indeed future zero heavy fuel-oil refineries are technically feasible through many existing and recent technologies. However their potential profitability is weighed down deeply by the very high investments and operating costs which are tied up. Tomorrow's main gasoline challenges deal with sulfur in FCC gasoline, aromatics and olefins contents together with a possible ban of ethers, hampering future octane demand and its technical feasibility. In a similar way diesel oil issues for the future imply a very deep desulfurization with possible aromatics hydrogenation and rings opening in order to comply with cetane and polyaromatics ratings. Natural gas upgrading via syngas chemistry is still expected to open the way to clean fuels for the future via improved and integrated FT's GTL technologies which could as a matter provide most of future increases in clean fuels demand without decreasing the related fatal carbon losses as CO2. As an overall view, clean fuels production for the future is technically feasible. Advanced hydrorefining and hydroconversion technologies open the way to clean fuels and allow the best flexibility in the gasoline/middle distillates ratio. However, cost reduction remains a key issue since the huge investments needed are faced with low and volatile refining margins. In addition, CO2 fatal production is bounded with the extra-hydrogen production needed for clean fuels achievements and natural gas upgrading could bring other very clean fuels without solving CO2 emissions drawbacks. Consequently, every fuel specification improvement will have to be balanced with its bounded fatal carbon losses, as CO2, and its extra cost.
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P. Courty, J. F. Gruson. Refining Clean Fuels for the Future. Oil & Gas Science and Technology - Revue d'IFP Energies nouvelles, Institut Français du Pétrole, 2001, 56 (5), pp.515-524. ⟨10.2516/ogst:2001041⟩. ⟨hal-02053955⟩

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