U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

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

Gordillo, Victor, Rankovic, Nicolas, Abdul-Manan, Amir F.N.
The international journal of life cycle assessment 2018 v.23 no.8 pp. 1527-1541
European Union, carbon, carbon dioxide, equations, gasoline, greenhouse gas emissions, hydrogen, industry, life cycle assessment, linear programming, octane, oils, petroleum, refining, risk, streams
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.