x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

New system to cut cost of wasted petrol

Huge loses and environmental damages due to petrol evaporation are to be stopped with the help of technology.

Some ADNOC gas stations are installing a machine to limit petrol evaporation.
Some ADNOC gas stations are installing a machine to limit petrol evaporation.

ABU DHABI // New technology on trial at an Adnoc station in the capital could put an end to the financial and environmental damage caused by evaporating petrol.

The average petrol station in the emirate is thought to lose about 35 gallons of petrol to evaporation every day - or 1,050 gallons a month - as tankers offload into underground storage tanks, leading to monetary losses and unknown environmental damage.

While such evaporation is a problem for petrol stations globally, it is exacerbated by the UAE's hot climate. Now a team of Japanese engineers believe they may have the answer. The team has installed a state-of-the-art vapour recovery unit on one of the Adnoc station's storage tanks that they hope will be able to not only capture the evaporating fumes, but recycle them into usable fuel.

The project's coordinator Kenji Suzuki, of the JX Nippon Oil and Energy Corporation, explained that when petrol tankers offload fuel into the station's storage tank the increase in pressure causes some of the petrol to evaporate.

"This machine will capture that vapour, then convert it into petrol and send it back to the storage tank," he said.

The vapour recovery unit is fixed to the storage tank and absorbs the evaporating petrol into silica gel before converting it back into petrol and routing it back to the underground tank.

The units are already in use in Tokyo, where they were introduced in an effort to control the air pollution caused by petrol stations and meet the city's strict environmental regulations. However, Mr Suzuki is quick to point out the cost benefits, too.

"With the current losses of petrol per day, in the coming two to three years, the total cost of the unit would have been compensated and unit would be free."

However, the team faces significant challenges. The rate of evaporation at any given petrol station varies due to factors such as location, humidity levels and climate. The searing heat of an Abu Dhabi summer is proving particularly problematic.

"In the middle of June, we installed this unit here and made it operational but the climate of this region is very, very hot. The temperature limitation of the instrumental equipments is 50 degrees Celsius normally.

"When temperatures rose over 50 degrees Celsius, the unit stopped working. Then we went back to Tokyo and brought in other equipment to protect the unit from the sunshine and heat.

"Now, we have installed a cooling fan and hope to restart this experiment before the end of this month."

Another potential hurdle is the sheer scale of the operation.

Mr Suzuki said that in Japan, each filing station was relatively small, having an average capacity of 300 kilo litres per month. However, the station in Abu Dhabi has a capacity of 3,000 kilo litres per month.

The unit will be under trial for three to four months while the team collects data and checks on the unit's efficiency. Once that trial period is complete the team will submit their data to Adnoc and wait to see if the company decides to implement the technology in other stations across the country.

"This is first such experiment we are carrying out in the Middle East region," said Mr Suzuki. "We have had discussions with Qatar and Kuwait about the project but are carrying out trials for the first time in Abu Dhabi."

anwar@thenational.ae