Norwegian and Indian Scientists Find Cheap Way To Reduce Sulfur Content In Petrol

Scientists from Norway and India say they have found a cost-efficient way to reduce the sulfur content in petroleum. They’ve developed a porous material that eliminates the need for costly hydrogen to clean up petrol and are set to use the product in commercial production.
The scientists, part of SINTEF, Scandinavia’s largest independent research and development company, and the Indian Institute of Petroleum, have worked for the past five years on their porous substance, which they are considering patenting. That might be a wise idea because removing sulfur tends to be costly.

Big oil refineries reduce petrol’s sulfur content through hydrotreating, but this process requires a lot of hydrogen. Elisabeth Tangstad, head of SINTEF’s project to produce cost-efficient ways to reduce sulfur in petrol, says the scientists also focused on creating fuel with lower CO2 emissions.

Innovative Breakthrough in Cleaner Fuel Production

IIP has already conducted commercial trials in its labs. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is financing the project with NOK 2.7 million ($532,600) and has pledged further support of up to NOK 5.7 million ($1.1 million) if necessary.

Low-sulfur petrol, also known as “city petrol,” is in high demand because, in recent years, countries have imposed burdensome regulations restricting sulfur levels in petrol to between 5 ppm and 150 ppm. US petrol has relatively high sulfur levels. The national average of sulfur in US non-reformulated (conventional) petrol amounted to around 350 ppm in 2006. Sulfur levels in diesel fuels are known to be higher than those in petrol. According to a petroleum industry survey, the typical levels of reformulated petrol were 150 ppm in the US in 2006.

Regulations on sulfur levels have been an important factor in petrol prices and taxes because the oil most abundantly available has high sulfur levels, making refining costly. The sulfur levels of what’s known as ‘sour’ crude oil are way higher than ‘sweet’ crude oil, which refiners love because it has naturally low levels of sulfur.

Collaboration Across Borders: A Leap Towards Reducing Pollution

The competitive importance of low-sulfur petrol production was underscored on July 1, when the US-backed International Energy Agency (IEA) publicly questioned India’s government’s decision to allow Reliance Industries, the Indian refiner with operations in Jamnagar (Gujarat), to export 10 ppm sulfur content petrol to the tune of 580,000 barrels per day. The company now ranks as the world’s largest refinery plant. “The impact on global crude allocations will be felt across Asia and as far afield as the US,” the IEA complained, warning that the extra petrol on the market will undermine global refinery margins.

The Indian company remodeled its refinery, which can now process various high-grade products. It can source crudes from every major exporting region, possibly with a bias towards heavy Middle Eastern and Latin American grades. The Indians, who are not part of the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) are aiming to sell their processed oil on the international market, having reconfigured their oil refinery to produce 10ppm sulphur diesel (down from 50 ppm) to be able to sell it in Europe after January 2009.

Sulfur significantly contributes to petrol’s environmental harm and deteriorating air quality. It poisons the catalyst in vehicles, which in turn increases the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, other air toxins, and particulate matter.

 


Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

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