Research & Development

The EU refining industry’s continuous investment in R&D and maintenance programmes is crucial to meeting the increasingly stringent fuel specifications and emission standards. Such investments have led to numerous tangible improvements, including

  • Fuels with a reduced presence of such chemical substances as sulphur, benzene, lead and aromatic compounds, which help reduce emissions during combustion.
  • Higher octane levels in gasoline and cetane levels in diesel for improved engine performance and lower emissions.
  • Reduced emissions of nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and particulates during production

THE EU REFINING INDUSTRY INVESTS HEAVILY IN ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE, ENERGY EFFICIENCY, SAFETY AND ADAPTATION TO CHANGING MARKET DEMAND

Over the past 20 years European refiners have invested an average of €4.5 billion annually towards the desulphurisation capacity of distillates and gasoline, the upgrading of production facilities and processes, the installation of emission abatement equipment, and numerous energy savings measures. Following the switch to fully unleaded gasoline, this culminated in the industry’s full transition to the production of sulphur-free motor fuels in 2009.

The continued tightening of oil product norms and emissions standards under the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive and 2020 Climate and Energy Package will require significant investments by EU refiners in the years to come. Anticipated legal constraints include the lowering of sulphur content in heating and maritime fuels, stricter emission trading rules (auctioning of carbon permits), and higher biofuel blending quotas.

Capital expenditures associated with previously announced refining projects aimed at being built in the EU within the next six to eight years was close to €35 billion. However, in the context of low refining margins and for strategic or economic reasons, many of these projects may not be implemented within the latest estimate, indicating that only around €14 billion will be spent in improving the European refining system

TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT HELPS IMPROVE ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE

The EU refining industry has reduced its environmental footprint by continuously investing in the development of increasingly energy efficient technologies and processes. Moreover, the widespread use of cogeneration and advanced catalyst systems allows for further energy gains. Since 1990, the refining sector has improved its energy efficiency at a rate of 1% per year.

European refiners have continually invested in new technology in order to ensure compliance with some of the world’s most stringent air quality (SOx, NOx and particulate matter emissions), water quality and soil protection rules. This has significantly reduced their environmental footprint, with the amount of sulphur emitted by EU refineries halved since 1998.

The quality of effluents has also greatly improved. Over the past 30 years, refineries have decreased their oil discharge in water tenfold.