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An analysis and control of volatile organic Compound (VOC) emissions from petroleum storage tanks.

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Climate change is a growing phenomenon with its effects becoming more prominent to life on earth. According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), some of the effects of climate change are irreversible. However, the implementation of large-scale reduction strategies on emissions may limit climate change over the long-term and provide short term air quality benefits. Petrochemical industries are a major contributor of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions as the need for storage facilities are expanding to accommodate for the increase in demand of organic liquids storage capacity. The Durban South Basin is a major industrial hub consisting of South Africa’s largest capacity oil refinery (SAPREF) and Engen refinery, soon-to-be tank terminal, located near a residential area. Therefore, the implementation of emission monitoring and reduction strategies are critical in ensuring climate resilience and the health and well-being of residents living within close proximity to the refineries. While there has been some progress in addressing climate change, emission data indicates that storage tanks contribute 42% of VOC emissions to total emissions from oil refineries. Due to limited studies conducted, there is a gap in the knowledge and understanding of proper monitoring and control practices of VOC emissions from petroleum storage tanks in Durban, South Africa. Therefore, the aim of this study is to provide strategies for implementation, such as simulation modelling using Aspen Plus ® and recommended process conditions, to achieve safe control and handling of emissions and to perform an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for analyses of its potential effect on the environment and health of communities. Estimation of VOC emissions for crude oil and petroleum products (Ultra-Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD), Unleaded Petrol 95 (ULP 95), Jet Fuel (JET A1) and Marine Gas Oil (MGO) were based on the AP-42 method, Aspen Plus ® simulations, manual flash calculations according to the Rachford-Rice iterative method and empirical correlations (such as the Vasquez-Beggs and Valko-McCain empirical correlation methods). The effects of atmospheric conditions, tank roof type, type of stored organic liquid and varying parameters (such as temperature, pressure and feed flowrate) on the VOC emissions from petroleum storage tanks were assessed to determine the most suitable monitoring method. The potential effect of Nitrogen blanketing (using the API 2000 7th ed. Standards) and Vapour Treatment on the reduction of VOC emissions from petroleum storage tanks were studied to determine its effectiveness as a control method. This study found that the Aspen Plus ® simulation method is an effective tool in monitoring VOC flashing emissions due to its reliability from its repeatability with the estimation crude oil test system in which the Aspen Plus ® and literature VOC measurement was consistent. Its ability to account for variations using the thermodynamic property models (Soave-Redlich-Kwong (SRK) for crude oil and Peng-Robinson (PENG-ROB)) for the product mixtures) further justifies the use of Aspen Plus ® as an effective monitoring method. Manual flash calculations under-estimated emissions across the organic mixture systems due to its less rigorous approach as it uses simplified equations which includes estimates of process conditions whereas Aspen Plus ® is able to account for variations is process conditions. The estimates determined using empirical correlations were mostly invalid due to the limited appliable range. All mixtures indicated a significant reduction in working and breathing losses when stored in an Internal Floating Roof Tank (IFRT) compared to a Floating Roof Tank (FRT). However, MGO was the exception. It was observed that these tanks should operate at 90 % capacity, with turnovers of 0 – 10 per year and a white painted shell, to ensure minimum emissions. Optimal operating tank temperatures should be maintained at 293.15 – 303.15 K and at pressures below 91 kPa. The installation of vapour recovery units is recommended for FRTs, and these measures are 90 % efficient. Due to the high API gravity of the ULP 95 mixture, the ULP 95 mixture should be targeted as a key mixture for control of VOC emissions as it has the potential to emit greater VOC emissions.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.