Scientists discover greener way to clean petrol

Norwegian and Indian scientists believe they have developed a more environmentally-friendly way to make petrol more environmentally-friendly.

The researchers from Norwegian R&D centre SINTEF and the Indian Institute of Petroleum claim to be able to remove polluting sulphur from petrol without using the usual energy-hungry and environmentally-damaging technique of hydrotreating.

The team set out to develop cheaper and less energy-consuming methods with lower emissions of CO2, and discovered that custom-made porous materials that removed the sulphur compounds from the fuel were a good alternative.

SINTEF’s Elisabeth Tangstad said: “In this process, the material removes the sulphur without a reaction necessarily occurring.”

The scientists have now designed, produced and tested a lot of materials on a small scale based on knowledge about the properties of the different material components. The most promising samples have later been up scaled and sent to IIP, which has carried out trials in its own laboratory in more realistic conditions.

Work still needs doing before existing Indian refineries can put the discovery into practical use.

Sulphur in fuel is harmful to the environment, and restrictions in this area worldwide have become tougher. In a densely populated country like India, sulphur pollution is particularly noticeable through acid rain and smog. At the same time, sulphur poisons the catalyst in vehicles, which can lead to greater emissions of nitrogen oxides.

The collaborative project between India and Norway is the latest to see both institutes benefitting from each other’s background and experiences.

In recent years, SINTEF has hosted several Indian scientists on exchanges.

Sam Bond

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