Scientists make petrol more environmentally-friendly


For the past five years, scientists from Norwegian R&D; centre SINTEF and the Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) have attempted to develop cheaper methods to reduce the amount of sulphur in petrol.

They have now produced results they are considering patenting.

Sulphur in fuel is harmful to the environment and restrictions in this area worldwide have become tougher. In a densely populated country like India, sulphur pollution is particularly noticeable through acid rain and smog. At the same time sulphur poisons the catalyst in vehicles, which can lead to greater emissions of nitrogen oxides.

Head of the project, SINTEF's Elisabeth Tangstad says that the project with the Indian scientists started with finding more environmentally-friendly and less energy-demanding methods for removing sulphur from petrol. Most refineries worldwide reduce the sulphur content in petrol through hydrotreating - a relatively expensive process with a high consumption of hydrogen.

SINTEF and IIP wanted to develop cheaper and less energy-consuming methods with lower emissions of CO2 and discovered that custom-made porous materials that removed the sulphur compounds from the fuel were a good alternative. “In this process, the material removes the sulphur without a reaction necessarily occurring” - says Tangstad.

The scientists have now designed, produced and tested a lot of materials on a small scale, based on knowledge about the properties of the different material components. The most promising samples have later been up-scaled and sent to IIP, which has carried out trials in its own laboratory in more realistic conditions.

In order for the Indian refineries to utilise the new methods, flow charts need to be constructed showing how the innovations can be incorporated into the refinery activities.

Tangstad emphasises that this has been a collaborative project between India and Norway, with both institutes benefiting from each other’s background and experiences. In recent years, SINTEF has hosted several Indian scientists on exchanges.

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