Emission Trends in Petroleum Refineries

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Reported emissions in Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) emissions reported by the refineries sector remained relatively consistent from 2011 to 2019, followed by a significant drop of nearly 10% in reported emissions in 2020 . Prior to 2020, refinery emissions ranged from a minimum of 172.6 million metric tons (MMT) CO2e in 2012 to a maximum of 182.5 MMT CO2e in 2018. A slight decrease in emissions of 0.1% was observed in the 2011 (178.2 MMT CO2e) through 2019 (178.1 MMT CO2e) time series. Reported emissions decreased to 160due to reduced demand during COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. A rebound in production and associated emissions began in 2021, with emissions increasing by nearly 3% to 164.9 MMT CO2e from the record low emissions reported to the GHGRP in 2020, a decrease of 9.7% from 2019.

Historically, refinery emissions trends depend on three factors: the number of operating refineries, the operable capacity, and the production slate. With respect to these three factors, we note the number of reporting facilities, the count has decreased from 150 in 2011 to 140 in 2020 to 137 over the last decade because some facilities refineries closed and a few very small facilities were refineries are no longer required to report. [1] The COVID-19 pandemic created challenging market conditions for refinery operators and resulted in the closure of a handful of facilitiesNotably, in 2021, a large refinery in Belle Chase, Louisiana operated by Phillips 66 closed due to weather related effects of Hurricane Ida while two new smaller refineries in Texas and California came online. [2] The number of refineries reporting facilities to the GHGRP is expected to continue to decrease in 2021.the next few years. [2]

With respect to operable capacity, we found that overall operable capacity (measured in thousand barrels per calendar day [3]) has increased by 5.2% from 2011 to 2020. This data 2% over the last decade. [3] Over the last two years, however, there has been a decrease in operable capacity of nearly 4%. So, while the decades-long trend demonstrates that the expanded production capacity at existing and new refineries more than offset offsets production declines from refineries that closedrefinery closures, the trend may be turning toward a sustained nationwide decline in operating capacity as a result of the expected shift toward electric vehicles and use of renewable fuels.

Finally, finished motor gasoline, distillate fuel oil, and jet fuel are the predominant fuels produced by refineries. During 2020, there were observed changes to refinery production slates were observed that are likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, the demand for transportation fuels, specifically finished motor gasoline and jet fuel, significantly decreased in 2020. These reductions in demand resulted in a 13.4% decrease in refinery throughput (measured as As a consequence of the decreased production of finished motor gasoline and jet fuel, we observed an increase in normalized emissions (i.e., metric tons CO2e per gross input to refineries in thousand barrels per day) in 2020 demonstrating production inefficiencies. [3] ) as compared to 2019. To adjust for lower demand, refineries shifted the production mix at domestic refineries [4] and likely had operational changes such as idling units and units running below capacity. These changes in refinery operations appear to have decreased the efficiency of refinery processes, resulting in an increase in normalized emissions per gross input (metric tons CO2e per In 2021, the production of finished motor gasoline (including motor gasoline blend components) and kerosene jet fuel increased by 7% and 28%, respectively. [4, 5] Distillate oil production remained flat compared to 2020, decreasing by 2%. [4] These overall changes in demand resulted in a net 6% increase in refinery throughput in 2021 (measured as gross input to refineries in thousand barrels per day [3]) for 2020. In 2020, normalized emissions per gross input increased 4.3% as compared to 20192020. [3] The 2020 normalized emissions per gross input are inconsistent with the historical time series trend. Historically a reduction in normalized emissions per gross input was observed, reflecting efficiency projects undertaken by refineries including the use of flare gas recoveryin 2021 are consistent with pre-pandemic values indicating adjustment and stabilization of production processes in response to market conditions.

[1]  40 CFR §98.2(i)(1) and (2) describe provisions under which a facility may discontinue reporting.

[2] U.S. Energy Information Administration, Refinery closures decreased U.S. refinery capacity decreased during 20202021 for second consecutive year (accessed September 2019, 20212022) at: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=48636  52939.

[3]  U.S. Energy Information Administration, Refinery Utilization and Capacity (accessed September 1619, 20212022) at: http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pnp_unc_dcu_nus_a.htm.

[4] U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Refinery Net Production (accessed September 19, 2022) at: http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pnp_refp2_dc_nus_mbbl_a.htm.

[5]  U.S. Energy Information Administration, Changing demand for petroleum products has led to operational changes at U.S. refineriesRefinery Net Inputs (accessed September 2028, 20212022) at: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=44936   dnav/pet/pet_pnp_inpt2_dc_nus_mbbl_a.htm.

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Source: Brian Cook, (email - 9/18/2017, content provided in 12/20/17 email), update per K Chiu, 10/10/18, and K. Chiu & RTI 9/6/19,  moved moved to Publication Help and updated 11/9/20, and K. Chiu & RTI on 10/4/21 and 10/14/22

Approval / Publishing History: Version 1, published 1/8/18, Version 2 10/1/19, Version 3 11/9/20, Version 4 10/6/21, Version 5 10/14/22

Expiration : none

Relevant Subpart: GHG Data and Publication.

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