Saudi Aramco looks to improve engines, fuels to sustain business

Saudi Aramco, the state-run oil giant of Saudi Arabia, says it is looking to develop more efficient fuels and sophisticated combustion engines to help reduce CO2 emissions and secure the company’s business.  Aramco graphic.

Saudi Aramco developing mobile carbon capture technologies

The chief technology officer at global oil giant Saudi Aramco says it is developing more efficient fuels and sophisticated combustion engines to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions as well as secure the company’s long-term future.

“The growth of transport is greater than the growth of alternative drivetrains,” Ahmad Al Khowaiter, Chief Technology Officer at Saudi Aramco told reporters at the Geneva car show.

According to Al Khowaiter, rising EV production in Europe will not offset rising global greenhouse gas emissions as emerging economies industrialize allowing better paid workers to buy cars that will use gasoline and diesel engines.

“Improving combustion engines is key to sustaining our business in the long term,” he said.

Al Khowaiter added that while carmakers have made advancements in the technology of the internal combustion engine, the availability of sophisticated fuels has not kept pace.

For example, over 100 years ago, diesel became an industry standard and has remained popular mostly because it does not evaporate quickly.  This makes it safer to handle during storage and refuelling.

Still widely-used, diesel is the key cause for nitrogen oxide pollution, which is blamed for respiratory diseases.  This is forcing the industry to find new ways to cut emissions.

“We can now optimize the fuel and the engine at the same time. And we can bring it to market by adding another fuel pump at the gas station, just like it is done with higher octane fuels,” Al Khowaiter said.

“We do the patents on the fuel development to enable the engines to be efficient,” the executive said.

According to Saudi Aramco’s website, the company is working on its own and with partners, including Mazda, to develop gasoline compression ignition.  This technology would significantly enhance the efficiency of the gasoline engine and cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 25 per cent.

Gasoline compression ignition would enable ultra-low engine out emissions, while harnessing the efficiency of diesel engines.

Turbulent Jet Ignition, or TJI, is also under development by the petrochemicals giant.  TJI enables the combustion to progress in a stable manner when the fuel-air mixture has been diluted with additional air or exhaust gas.

According to Aramco, TJI has been successfully tested by several technology providers, and the company is currently integrating TJI into an advanced gasoline vehicle, which will be showcased in 2020.  If vehicle integrations prove successful, Saudi Aramco says it hopes to see it commercialized in the near future.

Partnering with Achates Power and INNEngine, Aramco is also working on opposed piston engine technology which offers significantly enhanced power and efficiency.

Aramco says the engine uses two pistons per cylinder, working in opposite reciprocating motion. This design reduces friction and heat losses, bringing greater efficiency, which in turn improves fuel economy and reduces emissions.

Mobile Carbon Capture, or MCC, is an innovative technology that can help cut CO2 emissions in the transport sector.

Saudi Aramco says that refined over nine years by its scientists, the latest variant of the technology can capture up to 25 per cent of the CO2 emitted from a vehicle’s exhaust.

The captured CO2 is stored on board the vehicle, and can be used in a variety of industrial and commercial applications once offloaded, such as making high-value products through Aramco’s Converge technology.

MCC technology has been successfully demonstrated in a Ford F-250 pickup truck and a midsize Toyota Camry passenger vehicle. Saudi Aramco says it has also begun integrating the technology into a class 8 heavy-duty truck.

“By combining MCC with GCI and other efficiency improving technologies, we are aiming to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the CO2 footprint of the truck,” the company said on its website.

MCC has the potential to significantly reduce the emissions associated with freight transport, and would be especially viable when applied to captive fleets.




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