A perspective for net-zero oil refineries published in Nature

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SUNER-C coordinator Bert Weckhuysen made the cover of Nature last month with a perspective outlining the substitution of conventional crude oil procedures with renewable energy-driven approaches.

The paper, titled “The refinery of the future,” is co-authored by Bert Weckhuysen and Eelco Vogt, from Utrecht University. This article, in which made the cover of Nature in May, emphasizes the need to replace traditional crude oil processes with renewable energy-powered methods.

Oil refineries produce fuels and materials essential to modern life, from transportation fuels to everyday consumer products. Weckhuysen and Vogt’s paper details a comprehensive approach to decarbonizing these facilities by integrating renewable energy sources and innovative technologies like CO₂ capture, hydrogen electrolysis and producing chemicals and synthetic fuels from biomass or recycled plastics.

The transition, though costly—estimated at €320-520 billion annually until 2050 to replace all EU refineries —requires urgent policy and industry action to mitigate climate impact and ensure sustainable economic development. Coordinated efforts from researchers, policymakers, and industry leaders are needed to overcome technological and economic challenges.

The perspective, which has been also highlighted as an editorial article in “Nature News”, underscores the massive renewable energy requirements for these future refineries and the importance of creating resilient systems that can handle energy fluctuations inherent to renewable sources. The authors stress that achieving these ambitious goals by 2050 will necessitate significant investment and policy shifts, including carbon taxes and the elimination of fossil-fuel subsidies.


Read the full paper and editorial article on Nature and Nature News.


Posted on

May 29, 2024

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