The Promise of Hydrogen: How Refineries Can Use H2 to Reduce Emissions and Boost Production


The oil refining sector is looking into new strategies to switch to cleaner energy sources and lessen its carbon footprint. Using hydrogen in the refining process is one promising technological advancement. When it comes to decarbonizing refineries and creating fuels with smaller carbon footprints, hydrogen has a lot of potential.

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Nowadays, the majority of refineries use hydrogen produced from natural gas to filter sulfur and other impurities out of crude oil. But doing so results in carbon emissions. Using “green” hydrogen, which is created by electrolyzing renewable energy, is an alternative. Most of the emissions from the refining process would be eliminated if renewable hydrogen was used.

Numerous oil corporations have declared their intention to augment their utilization of green hydrogen. Shell’s Rheinland refinery in Germany is constructing a 10 megawatt hydrogen electrolysis plant. It will rank among the biggest of its kind in Europe when it opens for business the following year. At its refinery in California, Phillip 66 is collaborating with Nel, a Norwegian renewable energy company, to build a large-scale green hydrogen production facility.

Hydrogen can also be used by refineries to help transform low-quality products into fuels of higher quality. At its Rotterdam refinery, ExxonMobil is testing the use of hydrogen to transform byproducts from the refining process into components for gasoline. They assert that this can increase gasoline component production by up to 5%.

Infrastructure and the delivery of hydrogen to facilities present obstacles to the wider use of hydrogen. Nonetheless, experimental initiatives are proving the practicality and advantages of hydrogen for refineries. Hydrogen has the potential to significantly contribute towards decarbonizing the refining sector and creating lower-carbon transportation fuels if it receives funding and policy support.

Hydrogen is used in refineries for a variety of applications, including:

  • Hydrotreating: Removing impurities from crude oil and petroleum products.
  • Hydro-desulfurisation (HDS): Removing sulfur from natural gas and refined petroleum products.
  • Hydrocracking: Converting heavy hydrocarbons into lighter, more valuable products
  • Hydroisomerisation: Converting normal paraffins into iso-paraffins to improve product properties.
  • Dearomatisation: Hydrogenating aromatics to cyclo paraffins or alkanes

Hydrogen is used in refineries for many purposes:

  • Hydrocracking: Heavy hydrocarbons can be “crack” or broken down by hydrogen to produce lighter, more valuable products like diesel and gasoline. Hydrogen aids in the removal of contaminants such as sulfur.
  • Desulfurization: Sulfur compounds are eliminated from refined goods like gasoline and diesel using hydrogen in order to comply with emissions regulations. Hydrogen sulfide, which can be eliminated, is created when sulfur and hydrogen combine.
  • Cooling: Because of its high heat capacity and thermal conductivity, hydrogen is used in refineries as a cooling medium for reactors and turbines.
  • Chemical processes: Refineries use hydrogen as a reactant in a variety of chemical reactions to create high-value petrochemicals.

So in summary, hydrogen facilitates cracking, sulfur removal, cooling, and chemical synthesis – all critical functions in an oil refinery. Let me know if you need me to expand on any specific use!

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