Environmental sustainability enhancement of a petroleum refinery through heat exchanger network retrofitting and renewable energy

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Department of Chemical Engineering, Mahshahr Branch, Islamic Azad University, Mahshahr, Iran

2 Department of Chemical Engineering, Hamedan University of Technology, Hamedan, Iran


This paper presents a case study on the enhancement of environmental sustainability in a petroleum refining process based on an exergetic diagnostic approach. The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) pinpointed crude oil production and electricity generating systems as the main sources of environmental unsustainability. The existing hot utility demand of the process is 78.4 MW with a temperature difference of 40°C, where the area efficiency of the existing design is 0.7254. The targeting stage sets the minimum approach temperature at 18.96 °C, thereby establishing the scope for potential energy savings. The suggested design option with a total energy demand of 109,048 kW, the same as the existing one but 72,699 kW higher than the target, needs a 17,873 m2 area in 38 exchangers. Notably, this requires 2,914 m2 less surface area, suggesting the practicality of the project with a limited number of modifications such as the repiping of the existing exchanger units. Moreover, to enhance further the sustainability of the petroleum refining process, the possible solutions such as the renewables were evaluated through various scenarios; thus, resulting in a reduction in the environmental impacts from 2.34E-06 to 2.27E-06 according to ReCiPe, and thus paving the way towards a sustainable petroleum refining process.


Main Subjects

[1] Dutta, A., Dikshit, A. K., Ray, S., Bandyopadhyay, M. (2002). Environmental impact assessment and its minimisation in a refinery using life cycle impact analysis approach. The international journal of life cycle assessment, 7(3), 185-186.

[2] Takhom, A., Suntisrivaraporn, B., Supnithi, T. (2013). Ontology-enhanced life cycle assessment: a case study of application in oil refinery. In the second Asian conference on information systems (ACIS), Phuket, Thailand.

[3] Bösch, M. E., Hellweg, S., Huijbregts, M. A., Frischknecht, R. (2007). Applying cumulative exergy demand (CExD) indicators to the ecoinvent database. The international journal of life cycle assessment, 12(3), 181.

[4] ReV, E., Fonyo, Z. (1982). Synthesis of heat exchanger networks. Chemical engineering communications, 18(1-4), 97-106.

[5] Wood, R. M., Wilcox, R. J., Grossmann, I. E. (1985). A note on the minimum number of units for heat exchanger network synthesis. Chemical engineering communications, 39(1-6), 371-380.

[6] Smaïli, F., Vassiliadis, V. S., Wilson, D. I. (2002). Optimization of cleaning schedulesin heat exchanger networkssubject to fouling. Chemical Engineering Communications, 189(11), 1517-1549

[7] ISLA, M. A., CERDA, J. (1987). A general algorithmic approach to the optimal synthesis of energy-efficient distillation train designs. Chemical engineering communications, 54(1-6), 353-379.

[8] Bagajewicz, M. J. (1998). On the design flexibility of atmospheric crude fractionation units. Chemical engineering communications, 166(1), 111-136.

[9] Oskui, M. S. (2005). HEN retrofit of distillation unit of Tabriz refinery. (M.Sc. Dissertation). University of Sistan and Baluchestan, Zahedan.

[10] NREL. (2014). US Life-Cycle Inventory Database. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Retrieved from http://www. nrel. gov/lci/(June 2014).

[11] openLCA. (2016). Retrieved from

 http://www.openlca.org/. September 24, 2016.

[12] ecoinvent. (2016). Retrieved from

 http://www.ecoinvent.org/. September 22, 2016.

[13] Ghannadzadeh, A. (2017). Exergy-aided environmental sustainability assessment of ethylene dichloride-vinyl chloride production process. Chemical engineering research and design, 130, 109-128.

[14] Ghannadzadeh, A. (2018). Assessment of power generation from natural gas and biomass to enhance environmental sustainability of a polyol ether production process for rigid foam polyurethane synthesis. Renewable energy, 115, 846-858.