A significant amount of carbon is emitted during the refinement of crude oil to produce petrol and diesel. but in a world-first. a new material has been created by Australian engineers that will help to clean up the fossil fuel industry.
An estimated 20 to 30 percent of crude oil is burnt or wasted leading to oil refineries being the second largest source of greenhouse gases after power plants. according to the University of Sydney. But chemical engineers at the university have developed an amorphous silica-alumina catalyst that has the potential to reduce CO₂ emissions released during the refinement process by up to 28%.
Silica-aluminas with strong Brnsted acidity – a substance that gives up or donates hydrogen ions (protons) in a chemical reaction – are becoming increasingly important to sustainability processes. including CO₂ capture and conversion. air-pollution remediation. water purification and biomass conversion.
Researchers at the University of Sydney teamed up with others at Macquarie University and institutions in France. Switzerland and Germany. and as part of the Sydney Nano Grand Challenge. CO2 Zero. Associate Professor Jun Huang of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Sydney said the aim of CO2 Zero is a `new smart and sustainable Australian manufacturing sector which aims to increase CO₂ conversion and energy efficiency as well as reducing CO₂ emissions and energy consumption`.
While Australia is reliant on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. renewable energy is important to achieving a more sustainable energy supply. A Prof Huang explained.
`We should do all we can to make this industry more efficient and reduce its carbon footprint while we transition to renewable energy sources.`
And he believes the new catalyst offers `exciting prospects`.
`If it were to be adopted by the entire oil refinery industry. we could potentially see a reduction of over 20% in CO2 emissions during the oil refinement process.` A Prof Huang said. `That`s the equivalent of double Australia`s crude oil consumption. over two million barrels of oil per day.`
What`s next? The researchers will work on manufacturing the new catalyst at industrial scale.