COLLABORATION

International collaboration creates new material to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

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Researchers have created a new material that could potentially reduce carbon dioxide emissions during the oil refinement process by 20%.

Researchers from several universities, with support from the University of Sydney and the Australian Research Council (ARC) have created a new material that can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20% in the crude oil refinement process.

A team of researchers, through a collaboration between University Lille (France), the Centre National de la recherche Scientifique (France), ETH Zurich (Switzerland), Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany) and Macquarie University (Australia), with support from the University of Sydney and the ARC have produced a material that has the potential to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions at oil refineries, potentially improving the sustainability of the fossil fuel industry.

This study, published by the researchers detail the production of a new amorphous silica-alumina catalyst with stronger acidity than any other silica-alumina material created before. Silica-alumina materials are among the most common solid acids that have been widely commercialised as efficient and environmentally-friendly catalysts in the petrochemical and bio-refinery industries.

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Crude oil extraction is a significant contributor to the total emissions of fossil fuels.

A study published by Stanford University found that the extraction, transport, and refining of crude oil account for between 15 and 40% of total greenhouse gas emissions from transport fuels such as gasoline and diesel.

Estimates suggest that 20 to 30% of crude oil is transferred to waste and further burnt in the chemical process, making oil refineries the second-largest source of greenhouse gas producers, slightly behind power plants.

In addition to that, a significant amount of carbon is emitted during the refinement of crude oil to produce products like petroleum, gasoline, and diesel.

While various research is geared towards renewable energy and more sustainable energy sources, we are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

The findings from this research indicate the possibility of improving the sustainability of this industry, while simultaneously lowering its negative impact on the environment.

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Associate Professor Huang from the Faculty of Engineering and Sydney Nano said that this discovery can unlock a much greener future for the fossil fuel industry.

“This new catalyst can significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by oil refineries, which has the potential to make the fossil fuel industry much greener and cleaner,” said Huang.

The study details that this new silica-alumina material gives up or donates hydrogen ions (protons) in a chemical reaction making it a major candidate in improving various sustainability processes.

Researchers are subsequently looking for ways to manufacture this material on an industrial scale.

Applications for this material include biomass conversion, carbon dioxide capture and conversion, air-pollution remediation, and water purification.

Researchers believe that this new material, if adopted by the entire oil refinery industry could potentially lead to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of over 20% in the oil refinement process.