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(372k) Air Pollutant Emissions and Regulatory Implications of Co-Processing Raw Bio-Oil in U.S. Petroleum Refineries

Authors: 
Bhatt, A., National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Zhang, Y., National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Pyrolysis oil, often referred as bio-oil or biocrude, has attracted considerable attention because it has higher energy density and carbon content compared to the raw biomass. Using pyrolysis oil derived from low cost and underutilized biomass to produce renewable hydrocarbon fuels provides a viable link between the agriculture/forestry and (petro-) chemical industry. Co-processing bio-oil with vacuum gas oil (VGO) in petroleum refinery is appealing due to the relatively low capital requirement to retrofit refinery and the compatibility of fuel products with existing infrastructure.

In order to implement co-processing, a petroleum refinery would need to consider several process modifications and therefore could be subject to varying levels of air permitting requirements based on bio-oil co-processing ratio, co-processing capacity in existing units, the amount of regulated pollutants expected to be emitted, among other factors. This analysis considers co-processing 5% (by weight) of raw bio-oil with VGO in the fluidized catalytic cracking (FCC) unit(s) in a petroleum refinery. We estimate the potential increase in emissions of regulated air pollutants resulting from the modifications required to implement bio-oil co-processing and evaluate the regulatory and permitting implications for three FCC size categories in the U.S. refineries, which could co-processes raw bio-oil to produce partially renewable transportation fuels. We also assess technically feasible emission control options petroleum refineries could adopt to avoid being subject to major source permitting requirements if the estimated increase in regulated air pollutant emission exceeds the applicable threshold for major modifications.

Insights from our analysis can help overcome challenges and risks associated with timely obtaining air permits required to implement bio-oil co-processing in existing refineries. Our analysis also provides needed information for decision makers (e.g., local air quality agencies) to understand the potential air quality implications for retrofitting refineries to co-process bio-oil, particularly in areas with high concentration of petroleum refineries.