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The future role of UK refineries in a net zero transition

Project ID: 2228cc1445 (You will need this ID for your application)

Research Theme: Energy and Decarbonisation

UCL Lead department: Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources

Department Website

Lead Supervisor: Paul Dodds

Industry partner: Fuels Industry UK

Stipend enhancement: £3,500 pa

Project Summary:

Oil refineries manufacture a wide range of products from fossil fuels. Demands for some refinery outputs, such as diesel, are expected to greatly during the 2030s.

The six UK refineries could change the way their units operate or invest in new equipment to change the proportions of each petroleum product that is produced. Low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture and storage could reduce the lifecycle emissions of their products, in line with the UK strategy for decarbonising industrial clusters. For example, offshore wind could power electrolysers to produce hydrogen for manufacturing synthetic jet fuel. The aim of this PhD is to investigate potential options for oil refineries to contribute to net zero, particularly through the use of low-carbon hydrogen. You will work with UCL researchers in the EPSRC HyRES hydrogen research centre.

The primary analysis tool will be the UK TIMES energy system model, which the UK Government used to generate scenarios for the UK’s Net Zero Strategy (2021). You will use the model to explore decarbonisation pathways for sectors using petroleum products. You will develop a much more sophisticated representation of the six oil refineries and their options for future developments, to understand how they might adapt to changing demands in the future and whether existing refineries might be adapted to use and low-carbon hydrogen and biomass-derived fuels to produce lower-carbon petroleum products.

Fuels Industry UK, a trade association that represents refineries, is sponsoring this PhD. You will benefit from the substantial technical knowledge within Fuels Industry UK about the UK’s oil refineries and will have the opportunity to visit the refineries.

The project is ideally suited to a quantitative individual with a chemical or process engineering background who is motivated to work on problems that can have a real-world impact in supporting the transition to a decarbonised energy system.