Energy Efficiency

, Volume 12, Issue 8, pp 2039–2053 | Cite as

Residual steam recovery in oil refineries: technical and economic analyses

  • Vitor SeifertEmail author
  • Julio A. M. da Silva
  • Ednildo Torres
Original Article


The concern about environmental issues and economic competitiveness has brought discussions on how to make processes more efficient. In Brazil, most oil refineries were introduced between the 1950s and 1980s. Since then, structural changes were carried out which resulted on differences between the quantity of steam demanded for the modified processes and the quantity of steam produced by utility plants. These differences were created by the addition of new processes and modification on the composition of the oil processed over time. This work proposes a methodology to analyze the technical and economic feasibility of the exploitation of the steam wasted in oil refineries. For these analyses, three different technologies are proposed: organic Rankine cycles (ORCs) to generate power, absorption chillers to increase a gas turbine power production, and the pre-heating boiler’s feedwater to reduce fuel consumption. The economic analysis takes into account three different scenarios. The methodology was applied to a refining unit in Brazilian Northeast. Results show that all solutions are feasible technically and economically, except for one solution in the worst-case scenario. The application of ORCs to a 30-t/h stream of steam at 3.5 bar can generate 3364.9 kW of electricity (54.15% of exergy efficiency) with a return of the investment between 4.9 and 7.6 years. For a 10-t/h stream of steam at 1.4 bar, the application of ORCs can generate 878.6 kW of electricity (50.55% of exergy efficiency) with a return of the investment between 13.9 and 22.7 years. This application was not economically feasible in the worst-case scenario. The application of absorption chillers to reduce a gas turbine inlet air temperature, using 3.68 t/h of steam at 1.4 bar, increases in 2650.0 kW (12.5%) the power generated by the turbine (43.7% of exergy efficiency for the extra power). This investment returns in between 2.6 and 4.4 years. The use of a 30-t/h stream of steam at 3.5 bar can elevate boiler’s feedwater temperature from 147.8 to 150.7 °C, which results in a 0.3% reduction in boiler’s fuel consumption (7.7% of the exergy available), which returns the investment in between 3.2 and 5.2 years.


Heat recovery ORC Absorption chiller Pre-heating Oil refinery Energy efficiency Economic evaluation 



Vitor R. Seifert gratefully acknowledges the Industrial Engineering Program, Federal University of Bahia. This author also acknowledges FAPESB (Fundação de Amparo ao Pesquisador do Estado da Bahia) for the provision of master scholarships. Ednildo A. Torres would like to thank the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Industrial Engineering ProgramFederal University of BahiaSalvadorBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringFederal University of BahiaSalvadorBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Chemical EngineeringFederal University of BahiaSalvadorBrazil

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