The HOVENSA petroleum refinery in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (later operated by Limetree Bay Energy), is shown in February 2005. File photo by Cumulus Clouds/Wikimedia Commons
Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Scientists expect global oil refineries to emit more carbon dioxide than previously predicted.
In an analysis of the planet's oil refinery inventory, scientists determined carbon dioxide emissions could balloon to as much as 16.5 gigatons to 2030 from 2020.
According to the new survey, published Friday in the journal One Earth, carbon emissions from global oil refineries increased by 24% between 2008 and 2018.
"This study provides a detailed picture of oil refining capacity and CO2 emissions worldwide," study co-author Dabo Guan, a researcher at Tsinghua University in China, said in a press release.
"Understanding the past and future development trends of the oil refining industry is crucial for guiding regional and global emissions reduction."
The oil refinery industry account for 6% of global carbon emissions. Even as more and more clean energy sources come online, the expansion of fossil-fuel-based energy infrastructure is likely to complicate efforts to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement.
For the study, scientists compiled emissions data for 1,056 oil refineries from 2000 to 2018. The data showed global oil refineries released 1.3 gigatons into the atmosphere in 2018.
If refineries continue to operate without taking steps to mitigate emissions, oil refineries are likely to emit as much 16.5 gigatons of CO2 between 2020 and 2030.
However, scientists determined simple mitigation methods, including upgrading heavy oil-processing technologies and boosting refinery efficiency, could reduce global cumulative emissions by 10% between 2020 and 2030.
While scientists found all types of refineries increased oil barrel production between 2008 and 2018, the data showed the youngest refineries increased their production capacity most dramatically.
"Given the greater committed emissions brought about by the long remaining operating time of young refineries, there is an urgent need for these refineries to adopt low-carbon technologies to reduce their CO2emissions," Guan said.
"As for middle-aged and old refineries, improving operational efficiency, eliminating the backward capacity, and speeding up the upgrading of refining configuration are the key means to balance growing demand and reducing CO2 emissions."