New technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions from refineries is being developed on a demonstration scale by Petrobras.

The Brazilian energy company revealed last week that it was testing the technology in a prototype fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCC), which transforms heavy crude into light oil products.

FCCs are the main individual source of refineries' carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for around one-third of their total emissions of this gas.

According to Petrobras, this is the first pre-industrial scale FCC unit in the world to use oxy-combustion technology (the burning of a fuel using pure oxygen instead of air) to capture CO2 released during industrial processes in refineries.

Tests are being carried out at Petrobras' Shale Industrialization Facility (known as SIX) in Paran·, in partnership with the company's Cenpes research center, to evaluate the new technology on a scale closer to industrial scale and to identify areas for further development.

Data from the latest tests suggests that the oxy-combustion process could capture at least 90% of the CO2 emitted from industrial plants. It could also generate a stream of CO2 with a minimum purity level of 95%, ready to be sold to CO2-purchasing industries, injected into oil wells to increase output, or stored in underground reservoirs.

Petrobras believes that the oxy-combustion process could save around 40% in costs compared with post-combustion technology, which is traditionally used to capture CO2.

The challenge of CO2 capture also encompasses transportation and geological storage of CO2. To implement this technology, legislation and regulations are being drawn up to define the technical, social and environmental criteria that need to be met, the company said.