Operational eco-efficiency in refineries

Find out about the work done to improve the energy efficiency of Galp’s refineries.


Galp’s Commitment

At Galp we are committed to improving our performance in terms of safety, health and environment.

On the other hand, we seek to contribute to the satisfaction of future energy needs and minimising the carbon intensity of the activity.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

Strategic approach

Our strategy

The increasing scarcity of resources turns its management and use into one of the great challenges of today. This challenge is assumed by us and, for that purpose, we are committed to eco-efficiency, the efficient use of resources, the minimisation of negative impacts and the maximisation of environmental, technical and economic benefits.

According to our strategy, we are committed to continuous improvement, ensuring the sustainability of our operations, focusing on the operational eco-efficiency and energy efficiency of the refining system.

Our main objectives are to:

  • Gradually evolve towards the best market benchmarks in terms of emission intensity and energy efficiency;
  • Identify and mitigate the impacts associated with trends and regulatory requirements, particularly with regards to emission limits in the refining segment;
  • Identify exposure, in the medium term, to the physical risk of climate change and draw up plans or adaption measures;
  • Link social responsibility programmes with Refining & Marketing and climate change strategies.

This approach will allow Galp to contribute to the protection of the ecosystem services and reduce the carbon footprint resulting from the activity, thus ensuring the protection of the people, environment and assets


Approach according to the methodology of the Natural Capital Coalition Protocol

Why is it important to Galp and its Stakeholders

The refining business segment processes raw materials in the Sines refinery. This faciliy has a total refining capacity of 220 thousand barrels of crude oil a day.

One of our strategic objectives for the Refining business is the “focus on energy efficiency and process optimisation of the refining system, both in the optimisation of costs and of the capital employed”. In that sense, we take operational eco-efficiency as a strategic option incorporating the risks and opportunities inherent to its management.

Operational eco-efficiency was identified, by Galp’s top management and by our stakeholders, as a material issue for our activity. Taking into account the indicators related to operational eco-efficiency, refining represents, in general terms, the greatest materiality (approximately 90%) in the universe of our facilities.

Actions and measures

Our approach

At Galp, we continue to implement new actions, aimed at improving the eco-efficiency of our refining system, even after implementing the global conversion project of the Matosinhos and Sines refineries – the most ambitious industrial project developed in Portugal.

The goal of this project was to adapt the refining system to the new demand trends in fuel markets and equip the refineries with improvements that enable them to achieve benchmark levels in terms of energy efficiency, through the modernisation of facilities and processes. The implementation of these measures is reflected in an energy efficiency plan for each refinery, with the ambitious objective of turning them into benchmarks for the industry in the short-term.

With regard to the control and reduction of atmospheric emissions, measures are taken to reduce the emissions in the refining operations, making these operations and its products increasingly sustainable, through the implementation of the best available technologies.

Measures to Improve Eco-efficiency

  • Optimisation of the combustion systems;
  • Adjustment of the fuel portfolio, giving preference to fuels with lower carbon and sulphur content;
  • Introduction of a nitrogen oxides reduction additive into the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) catalyst;
  • Integration of new fuel specifications, minimising environmental impacts from the use of commercialised products;
  • Establishing objectives and targets based on key performance indicators (KPIs).

All the actions related to the improvement of operational eco-efficiency have as a common denominator maximising the efficiency of resource use and minimising the environmental impacts.

Results achieved

Refinery indicators 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2013-2021
Direct energy consumption by primary sources per feedstock processed (TJ/ mmboe) 447 458 389 412 411 417 416 436 441 -1.5%
Consumption of raw water per feedstock processed (10³m³/mmboe) 98 95 81 82 84 91 99 102 109 +11.2%
Wastewater per feedstock processed (103 m³/mmboe) 49 53 52 53 45 59 56 55 57 +15.5%
Waste produced per feedstock processed (t³/mmboe) 147 168 151 214 182 394 306 185 178 +20.8%

In 2021, the feedstock processed in our refining segment was 76.6 mboe. This reduction is justified by the concentration of refining activities in the Sines Refinery.


2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Feedstock processed (t) 17,375,854 16,446,280 17,361,583 15,382,150 14,962,721 13,120,268 11,797,050

Energy efficiency

Galp remains focused on optimising its refining system processes and maximising energy and processual efficiency. We have several ongoing programmes and projects to optimise the use of resources and materials in our operations, both in the Sines and Matosinhos refineries, with a view to achieving continuous improvements, minimising process variations and reductions in waste and effluents.

In 2021, relevant refining activity conversion and energy efficiency improvement projects were implemented, with a total investment of c.€2.1 m.

At Galp, we are working towards reducing the carbon intensity of our refining activity, as shown in the graphs below:

Sines refinery performance

Indicator 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2013-2021
CO2/CWT 37.7 32.9 32.1 31.8 31.3 31.3 32.7 30.3 30.2 -20%
EII (%) 103.0 92.7 94.6 93.3 93.8 96.2 97.5 95.8 101.6 -1.4%

Matosinhos refinery performance

Indicator 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2013-2020
CO2/CWT 31.7 28.2 26.6 28.9 27.0 28.5 29.3 30.2 n.a. -5%
EII (%) 84.4 82.7 80.9 81.0 80.1 80.7 86.0 91.5 n.a. +8%

Sines Refinery was launched in this facility the project for the implementation of Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) methodology, which yielded visible outcomes resulting in a positive trend throughout the second quartile.

Matosinhos Refinery : in 2021, refining operations were concentrated in the Sines Refinery.

Water Efficiency

During the last years, our refineries had implemented several measures to reduce and reuse water in our operations. We highlight the following set of implemented measures:

  • Reuse of wastewater from the Sour Water Strippers (SWS);
  • Use of rain water in the fire service network;
  • Use of rain water in the irrigation system;
  • Reuse of treated water (tertiary treatment) from WWTP for use in some specific processes;
  • Monitoring and optimisation of water used in floor washes, drainage of condensates and others water intensity activities.

Control and reduction of atmospheric emissions in the refineries

Our refining system reveals a performance improvement through reductions in atmospheric emissions, expressed in the numbers below when comparing the performance between 2021 and 2017.

(2017-2021) Galp
NOx -17%
SO2 -84%
Particles -19%

These results show that our refineries follow the trends of atmospheric emissions reduction in the European Union and it is noticeable that we’re in line or exceeding the industry trends in the geography in which we operate.

Methane emissions

On an absolute and relative basis, there was a 28% reduction of the Direct CH4 emissions in comparison with last year.

  2020 2021
Direct CH4 emissions (t) 682 491

Economic impacts

Since 2013, the adoption of eco-efficiency measures has led to savings of more than €260 million.

Expenses, investments and savings/cost avoidance

(M€/year) 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Investments 8.34 11.18 9.06 26.93 61.16 30.78 23.94
Operational expenses 5.35 4.62 5.13 6.20 5.55 5.35 5.97
Total expenses 13.68 15.80 14.19 33.13 66.71 36.13 29.92
Savings and cost avoidance 30.37 24.06 15.75 39.81 76.85 17.48 0.76
% of operations covered 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

The savings and avoided costs have remained at levels considerably above the total expenses (in capital investment and operational expenses) incurred in improving the operational eco-efficiency. This means that the investments have been effective and generated return, which confirms the success of the strategic decisions taken, enabling medium and long-term benefits.

The operational expenses related to the environmental management systems at the refineries have been reduced since 2012, due to the improvements resulting from the eco-efficiency strategy. The investments made in 2012 and 2013 were based on the BATs, as part of the refinery conversion project.

Since 2013, the adoption of eco-efficiency measures has led to savings of more than €260 million. In 2021 we had an total of more than €760kin Savings, cost avoidance, income, tax incentives, etc.

The investments made since 2013 are essentially related to energy efficiency. The savings and avoided costs include: annual savings related to environmental management; CO2 cost avoidance (2012 - 2021); energy efficiency savings (2013-2021); water reuse benefits (2011-2021); savings in electricity purchasing costs by the refineries (2013-2021).

Social impacts

The social impacts resulting from the operational eco-efficiency improvement of the refining system are in line with the already mentioned Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The measures taken, mainly in terms of energy efficiency and the control of atmospheric emissions, will ultimately produce benefits for society at these levels:

  • Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all;
  • Promotion of sustainable patterns of consumption and production;
  • Implementation of measures to combat climate change and associated impacts;
  • Protection, restoration and promotion of the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems;
  • Implementation and revitalisation of a global partnership for sustainable development.

Galp intends to contribute to the pursuit of these objectives for society in general, promoting the actions, measures and goals already mentioned, beside the plans outside the scope of refining. If at the global level we want to contribute to the social well-being, namely through the SDGs, at local and regional level the benefits resulting from the eco-efficiency impacts may be more significant.

The measures regarding energy efficiency and the responsible consumption and production will reduce the pressure on local resources and in the future they may also contribute to a reduction in the production of waste and wastewater.

The reduction of atmospheric emissions resulting from direct measures of emissions control, besides the energy efficiency measures, will also produce benefits for the local population, namely in terms of air quality.

In summary, the results achieved allow minimising the negative impacts of the refining activity and optimising the environmental, technical and economic benefits, as well as reinforcing the trust of the various stakeholders, both at the social and corporate level.


In 2021, the performance in the operational eco-efficiency indicators was still impacted by the pandemic crisis, namely due to low consumption and, consequential shut-down and significant reductions in production, with the concentration of refining activities in the Sines Refinery. Nevertheless, Galp entailed all the possible mechanisms available to tackle the challenges that emerged, which were then reflected in the energy efficiency indicators, such as the carbon intensity and energy intensity performance, compared to 2013.

To achieve this performance, the constant setting of challenging goals and targets for the most material facilities is essential, as well as the commitment from the top management.

Because operational eco-efficiency is a strategic and material issue, at Galp we identify improvement opportunities and establish action plans concerning the reduction of water consumption, wastewater production, energy consumption and waste production, with positive effects on the associated management costs.

Challenges faced and lessons learned

  • The daily challenge of achieving operational excellence;
  • Data quality, monitoring and improvement in communication;
  • The benefits arising from target definition in order to improve.

Next steps

Our objective is to minimize the impact of our operations, sustainably reducing the carbon intensity of the activity.

   2022 | Increase eco-efficiency (>15%) focused on the water consumption and air emission indicators.

   2030 | Reduce the downstream sales based carbon intensity in 20% and the production-based carbon intensity in 40%.

   2050 | Bring the portfolio in line with the vision for carbon neutrality in Europe (Net-Zero Emissions)

   Planned growing investment allocated to projects that promote energy transition.

We will continue to set eco-efficiency targets and objectives in accordance with the relevance and nature of the operation.