In Refining and Marketing

A strategic investment to create value, innovate, develop and mitigate environmental impacts.

As the only refining company in Portugal, Galp regards investment in I&TD as strategic in order to:

  • Create value and promote differentiation in products;
  • Innovate in processes to achieve greater efficiency in operations;
  • Mitigating the environmental impacts.

In its original form, crude oil has little use. Its value lies in the products that can be obtained from it, such as fuels, naphthas, solvents and gases connected to oil (for instance, LPG).

Refining is the industrial activity that breaks down crude oil into a series of products that are very valuable for everyday use. Simply put, a refinery is an organised combination of physicochemical process facilities, transportation lines and storage tanks for crude oil and refined products.

View the case studies of eco-efficiency in refineries.

Completed EngIQ PhD Programme Projects

Within the scope of the EngIQ Doctoral Programme, it is worth mentioning a set of projects that have already been completed and which have proven to be of immense importance to the Refining area, namely:

The high residence times required to convert high molecular weight mercaptans to disulphides by means of an air catalytic reaction in the Merox Petroleum Units (jet) cause capacity bottlenecks in the treatment line that make it impossible to process some sections with an acceptable cost/quality ratio (yields).

This project has had important contributions in several areas. Firstly, it allowed to learn in detail the chemical composition of components and bitumen produced in the Matosinhos refinery, as well as to relate these with the application characteristics. Based on the knowledge acquired, it was also possible to change the formulations of the three grades of bitumen and thus improve the quality of these products.

The quality improvement enabled new formulations to be validated by large customers, mainly in the field of asphalt screens, such as Danosa, Imperalum and Texsa. These aspects led to a significant increase in sales, namely of 160-220 bitumen to Spain. It should also be pointed out that, in this case, Galp was able to transform a product that was difficult to penetrate in the market into another market that was unanimously accepted.

This project demonstrated this technique’s potential (NMR) in the correlation and estimation of properties, for the purposes of procedural control. Using this technique, besides increasing the speed at which analytical results are obtained, has been fundamental in determining product properties. That was the case of the identification and characterisation of contaminants, as well as in developing applications for predicting characteristics of gasoline and fuel oil, for the purpose of product validation and procedural control.

Based on the use of this technique, a mathematical model of fuel oil viscosity prediction, already implemented in the fuel oil production control system, was developed at the fuel factory of the Matosinhos refinery.

Another important result of this work consisted in an economic assessment of an investment in an online monitoring equipment of the characteristics of fuel oil, based on this technology. According to the analysis carried out, this monitoring should contribute to the optimisation of the use of fluxes in fuel oil production, with considerable economic savings.

This doctoral project allowed to prove the potential for mercaptan removal from jet/oil, assisted by ionic liquids, and procedural operations assisted by membranes.
The studies carried out led to gaining knowledge about the use of new processes for separation and application of ionic liquids, which are increasingly important substances in the oil industry.

The knowledge acquired also allowed the preparation of a project, to be implemented in the short term, for developing a purification methodology for solvents produced by Galp, an alternative to current commercial solutions, and which is expected to be more competitive.

The objective of this project was to solve recurring problems in gas treatment plants for the removal of hydrogen sulphide assisted by amines in the refinery’s Plants 1 and 2. The problems referred to are the amine contamination with hydrocarbons and the loss of amine inventory in its closed loop system. One of the main operational causes of these problems is the difficulty in controlling the temperature differential between the amine stream used and the gas stream with hydrogen sulphide to be treated. Thus, conducting this study allowed to optimise these units by reducing the temperature differential (amine-gas) to the recommended target values, maximising the effectiveness of gas treatment.

Based on the work developed, the said units’ design improvements are also being developed by introducing equipment whose design has been improved over time and which are now considered “good practices” in the design of Gas Treatment Systems using Amines.

Finally, the study also led to reducing steam consumption used in amine regeneration.

Ongoing EngIQ PhD Programme Projects

There are currently more PhDs programmes running at different progress stages. These new studies have enabled a better understanding of the phenomena involved in the different processes carried out in refineries, allowing to define solutions and/or mitigation ways for the same problems in the future.

This project intends to analyse the heat recovery potential of the Sines refinery, considering all the processing units, particularly, to study retrofit solutions that are viable for the energy integration of all the refinery’s existing processing units.

Following the application of Process Integration methodologies, we aim to create scenarios of industrially adequate proposals for increasing global energy efficiency, especially from a thermal point of view, with a return on investment timeline that is adequate to the company's plans.

This project aims to develop solutions that promote greater efficiency of the hydrogen distribution network in the Sines refinery, either by reducing the hydrogen production and redistribution costs, or by improving hydrogen purification processes.

The project aims at the following technical advances:

  • Elaborating a diagnostic tool, based on Pinch analysis, in order to identify the bottleneck of the hydrogen network;
  • Developing an optimisation model to determine optimal network configuration;
  • The possibility of integrating new equipment, namely purification units or compressors, will be calculated in the model, as well as the redesign of the piping system.

This project aims to identify and study possible scenarios for the renovation of the aromatics plant of the Matosinhos refinery. The goal is to increase its overall energy efficiency and to achieve a better performance, not only in terms of reducing energy consumption, but also in terms of environmental impacts and their costs.

In order to recover increasingly large quantities of oil from oil reservoirs, the oil industry often uses oil-thinning techniques, such as the injection of co-adjuvants such as CO2 or surfactants. The objectives of this project are, therefore, to study the chemical changes caused in oil and rock by injecting co-adjuvants and to develop new EOR (Enhanced Oil Recovery) techniques. This project also also aims at performing laboratory tests to these new techniques, as well as a scale-up projection and implementation of the results, in order to include them in reservoir simulations.

The incorporation of biodiesel in diesel at concentrations that are close to 7.0%v/v is now legally mandatory and it may exceed this limit in the future. Its use as a diesel component had several negative impacts related to cold flow properties and oxidation stability, among others. These factors have been aggravated by the use of lower-cost raw materials such as used vegetable oils and animal fats.

The objective of this PhD is to understand the factors and mechanisms that originate and condition the said properties, be it in the raw materials, or in blends of diesel with biodiesel.

Deepening knowledge in these areas will allow to: 1) implement actions and methodologies that prevent, minimise or avoid the degradation of the oxidation stability characteristic of diesel containing biodiesel; and 2) establish actions and methodologies that allow for optimising the cold flow properties of diesel with biodiesel, minimising costs and ensuring product performance quality.

In the current energy context, there is an increasing concern to value fractions from oil refining that have little affinity with the production of liquid fuels. Gasoline production sometimes uses heavier fractions from crude oil refining, resulting in a gasoline with a high content of aromatic compounds. However, there are environmental restrictions currently imposed on this type of components in liquid fuels.

Against this scenario, the light naphtha isomerisation process, particularly in the range of 5 to 7 carbon atoms, has been shown to be a process suitable for processing of high quality gasoline. In addition to complying with existing environmental restrictions, it is simple and economically feasible.

This PhD intends to increase the know-how on valuing fractions with hydrocarbons with a greater number of carbon atoms, starting from light naphtha transformation processes. The main goal is to improve octane rating of the final mixture, with a lower content of unwanted compounds and a higher energy power.

The quality of the effluent released by the refineries is a highly important aspect, not only for its impacts on the environment, but also for the costs that arise from its treatment, or from the rates that are applied according to the contaminants present.
This project aims, in effect, to identify and implement effluent treatment processes that are economically viable in the refinery of Sines. Its starting point will be characterising the effluents and analysing of the impacts of several processes, namely by implementing advanced oxidation processes and optimising separation processes using membranes.

Crude oil processing and effluent generation has been a problem in recent years due to the increase in global energy needs. Environmental constraints have likewise increased, in order to encourage industries to treat effluents and to reuse water produced, as the availability of drinking water is declining. From an environmental and economic point of view, it is important to develop sustainable and efficient technologies to treat effluents and provide a re-use of resources. Conventional processes are becoming increasingly obsolete, as they fail to comply with the restrictions imposed for effluent discharge.

Thus, this PhD aims to increase knowledge regarding technologies that allow an efficient treatment of effluents at source, in order to increase the quality of the final effluent.

The efficiency of production processes depends on a prompt and highly accurate availability of data. It is particularly important to be able to determine oil product properties, and the Near Infrared (NIR) and 1H NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) techniques not only allow fast and reliable analyses, but also allow for the definition of functions and properties. In addition, the likelihood of achieving high stringency correlations is greater if both techniques are combined.

This PhD will thus analytically characterise various oil products and develop mathematical models that relate the corresponding properties to the respective data obtained from each of the techniques - NIR and 1H NMR. These models will be applied in the control of manufacturing processes and product enabling circuits for the market, in the hopes of obtaining fast and accurate results. It is also expected that these results will have an impact on the increase in revenue, decrease in variability and rapid availability of the final product.

In a highly competitive industry such as Oil Products Refining, it is fundamental to maximise production, to have the ability to ship products and market diversification, in order to maximise the company's profitability and competitiveness. Added to this scenario is the fact that the fuel market is subject to strict quality control, be it in component production or in product mixing in order to obtain ready-to-ship products. Considerable time connected to transfer, mixing, sampling and product analysis operations are associated with this quality control. Developing methodologies that shorten those times will, therefore, be a factor of increase in competitiveness.

It is in this context that this PhD project arises, aiming at the development of inferential sensors, in order to quickly predict the relevant properties of gasoline and diesel. This will allow an increase in the shipping rate of both types of products of the Sines refinery. The models to be developed, in addition to allowing rapid access to product property estimates - increasing the speed of decision making - will also enable online process monitoring and control - minimising storage utilisation and increasing blending efficiency.

The continuous optimisation of the processing units of the Matosinhos refinery, either in energy terms or in terms of cargo maximisation, is based on a multivariable matrix control system - Advanced Control. Based on forecasting models, by manipulating set-points in the control system, the operating windows are kept at their ideal point.

This PhD aims to develop a mathematical model that can predict a specific feature - RON or Research Octane Number - based on online processing variables such as pressure, temperature and flow rate, as well as variations in the cargo composition to the units. It is expected that the implementation of the RON model in Advanced Control can contribute to a considerable minimisation of the amount of processing energy required, as well as reducing the giveaway.