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School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science

Oil refinery

Process integration

Process integration of chemical processes focuses on the design, optimisation, operational optimisation and control of chemical and biochemical processes. We have particular specialism in the oil and gas sector including petroleum engineering.

Process integration relates to processes in the petroleum, petrochemical, chemical, pharmaceutical and food processing industries. The emphasis is on a holistic approach to the process, rather than concentrating on individual operations, or the phenomena occurring in individual operations. The research in process integration started in the early 1980s with an emphasis on energy efficiency. The early focus was on systematic methods for the design of heat exchanger networks. Later, the ideas and techniques developed to solve the heat exchanger network problem provided the basis for the extension of the methodology into new areas.

Although research in process integration now covers a much wider area than energy efficiency, the greatest emphasis is still placed on process design, retrofit and operational optimisation for energy reduction. Research is also focused on maximising the sustainability of industrial systems, where efforts strive to satisfy human needs in an economically viable, environmentally benign and socially beneficial way.

Examples

  • Process integration develops a holistic approach with the goal of ensuring that the individual parts of the process fit together in an optimal way.
  • The optimal exploitation of oil reserves requires new approaches to the modelling of reservoirs.

The process integration research has for over 30 years been in a world-leading position, both in terms of academic research and industrial application. Industrial support has been provided throughout from the Process Integration Research Consortium, a group of multinational companies that came together to support the research in process integration. Techniques developed in the research for energy recovery, integration of distillation systems, water system design and petroleum refinery hydrogen management have been adopted worldwide in both academic research into process design and industrial application.

Petroleum engineering

The research group also includes activities in petroleum engineering. This research focuses on the modelling of oil reservoirs and involves interdisciplinary collaboration with the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Modelling of petroleum reservoirs is required for the prediction of reserves, planning the optimal development of the oil field, predicting future production, determining the optimal location of additional wells and reservoir management.

Modelling is also necessary to exploit enhanced oil recovery, and the possible sequestration of CO2 in reservoirs, which can lead to increased recovery of crude oil from typically 20 to 40%, to 60% and more. Various techniques for this are being explored, including low salinity water flooding, polymer flooding, surfactant flooding techniques and CO2 injection. The ultimate goal of research in this area is to maximise the economic exploitation of oil reserves through step changes in the way reservoirs are exploited and the effective use of enhanced oil recovery.