Refineries and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

All Text from: Environmental Protection Agency (2010). Available and Emerging Technologies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from The Petroleum Refining Industry.

The petroleum refining industry is the nation’s second-highest industrial consumer of energy (U.S. DOE, 2007). Nearly all of the energy consumed is fossil fuel for combustion; therefore, the petroleum refining industry is a significant source of GHG emissions. In addition to the combustion-related sources (e.g., process heaters and boilers), there are certain processes, such as fluid catalytic cracking units (FCCU), hydrogen production units, and sulfur recovery plants, which have significant process emissions of CO2. Methane emissions from a typical petroleum refinery arise from process equipment leaks, crude oil storage tanks, asphalt blowing, delayed coking units, and blow down systems. Asphalt blowing and flaring of waste gas also contributes to the overall CO2 and CH4 emissions at the refinery. Based on a bottom-up, refinery-specific analysis (adapted from Coburn, 2007, and U.S. EPA, 2008), GHG emissions from petroleum refineries were estimated to be 214-million metric tons of CO2 equivalents (CO2e), based on production rates in 2005. Figure 2 provides a breakdown of the nationwide emissions projected for different parts of the petroleum refineries based on this bottom-up analysis (p. 3).

The profile of the largest emitter in the industry, the Baytown Exxon-Mobil Refinery in Baytown, Texas.