Extent of impact mitigation of environmental impacts of products and services
At the Repsol Technology Center we carry out a large number of projects with the objective of continually improving processes and creating products that allow us to use energy efficiently, reducing consumption and minimizing the impact on the environment. The following are some of our main ongoing projects:
- Adelfa project: Research into medium-chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoate polymers (mcl-PHA) produced by bacterial fermentation of animal and vegetable waste, as an alternative or complement to fossil polymers. The PHAs produced showed some interesting properties as adhesive components.
- BiBOP project: Research to increase the biodegradability of polyolefins by using peptidic additives to help eliminate plastic waste from the environment.
- Vals project: Research to give polyolefinic materials self-repairing properties, with the potential to increase the lifespan of materials, thereby potentially reducing energy costs and manufacturing and maintenance resources. When these materials are used in infrastructures they can help reduce environmental risks (in piping, for example, they reduce the risk of leakages, or the risk of short-circuits and fires in high-voltage cables).
- Research into the use of technologies bases on electrogenic bacteria for treating wastewater from refineries and petrochemical plants. The advantage of this technology compared to other current methods is that it eliminates the organic load in a shorter timeframe (12 hours compared to 48), with less energy consumption (-80%) and no sludge production. The project will be escalated to a pilot plant in 2017, and to an industrial plant in 2018. We are also carrying out a lab-scale survey on its application to soils with hydrocarbon pollutants, as biosensors to act as a discharge early warning system, as active barriers to prevent dispersal, and as a bioremediation technique when the impact has already occurred.
- NEOSPOL project: Research to convert CO2 into polymer materials, thereby replacing fossil-origin raw materials. The applications already investigated can replace both other materials maintaining their performance levels, and also new materials with different properties. We work to develop the polycarbonate polyol for polyurethane and thermoplastic polymer applications, and to do so we are developing specific catalysts, investing in more efficient processes and working to find new product applications, such as adhesives, elastomers, foams and claddings, with a smaller carbon footprint.
- Opera project: Research into new and more efficient epoxidation technologies for our plant producing Propylene Oxide and Monomer Styrene (PO/MS, a facility using Repsol's own in-house technology). This will bring about a more efficient process in terms of both consumption of raw materials and also in terms of energy, by significantly reducing the organic content of water-based effluent during the process.
- HEADS (Hydrocarbon Early Automatic Detection System) project: In 2016 we continued our work on a pioneer in-house project to automatically detect hydrocarbons at sea, with a response time of less than two minutes. This tool is based on radar and heat vision technology, and can detect hydrocarbons in quantities exceeding 20 liters. The system has already been rolled out at the Casablanca platform, the sea terminal in Tarragona and the La Pampilla refinery, and in 2016 work began on the project at the Petronor and A Coruña terminals.
- HORUS project: cutting-edge technology to improve the integrity of our wells. The project sets out to develop "smart communicative cement", the main purpose of which is to be constantly embedded within the well cement that acts as a zonal isolation between the formation and the well throughout its entire lifespan. This is achieved using smart sensors that are composed of nano and micro components. The sensors, in collaboration with the smart completion, receive and transmit signals and transfer them wirelessly to the surface, and ultimately to the end user. In this way HORUS helps monitor, identify and/or predict potential integrity and zonal isolation failures in real time, thereby reducing the risk of accidents. Currently and in 2016 we have successfully designed, built and tested the sensor and tubular prototypes that will allow us to proceed with the next phase of enhancing current functionality - ultimately making operations safer and more efficient. The prototype that will enable us to operate more efficiently was designed, built and tested in 2016.
- Development of an integrated fluid-dynamic simulation methodology to predict problems of hydrate formation during well tests, which could cause obstructions in the pipe, possibly damaging the facilities and causing spillage or polluting water due to separation problems. Early identification of these risks enables us to take the necessary measures at the planning stage and optimize the mitigation strategy for these operations. The methodology was successfully applied in deep-water facilities before drilling commenced on new wells.
- Research and development in algorithms and simulation methodologies with respect to corrosion and erosion, in order to enhance the prediction capacities of the industry's conventional models. The process guarantees proper selection and integrity of materials during the life cycle of the hydrocarbon production system, minimizing the risk of leakages, spillages and/or unsafe conditions in the future. The progress made in previous work was applied to selection of materials for production tubing at future shallow-water wells before drilling, thereby minimizing risks with regard to safety and the environment.
On the other hand, the Emerging Businesses area invests in companies in possession of potentially scalable technologies or innovations, of interest for Repsol activities and that may be profitable in the event of entrepreneurial success. The target companies are innovative companies that provide efficient environmental solutions, among other contributions. The interest in investment focuses on companies with advanced mobility (electrical mobility), a circular economy (productive use of waste, water recycling) or environmental management (land remediation, energy efficiency).
Along these lines, in a co-investment project with the CDTI on the INNVIERTE program, we were also involved on the Graphenea project with a corporate venture capital investment package (5.25%) for the company producing graphene in San Sebastián (Spain).
Graphene is a new material for which countless applications are now being discovered in many sectors. It can be used in energy applications (as a component of batteries, photovoltaic panels, catalysts etc.). The new pre-commercial graphene oxide plant was built in 2016, and we are now seeking possible energy-related developments to move forward in terms of sustainability and efficiency in any applications that may eventually be viable. The investment package was €0.6 million.