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Identifying More Sustainable Technological Solutions for the Oil Refining Industry (Volume 1).

Weston, Neil. (2010) Identifying More Sustainable Technological Solutions for the Oil Refining Industry (Volume 1). Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey (United Kingdom)..

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Abstract

Sustainability is a paradigm, or way of thinking, to ensure that human activities remain within the global economic, social and environmental constraints imposed either externally, by the environment, or internally, by society itself. Making the transition to sustainability requires society to follow a path of sustainable development, which requires an understanding of the impacts of alternative activities in their entirety so that choices made lead increasingly to a sustainable way of life. To facilitate this adjustment, analytical approaches have been developed that promote holistic thinking. Some of these analytical approaches are driven by the concept of ‘life cycle thinking’ (LCT), which refers to the consideration of impacts throughout a complete supply chain or ‘product system’ with dimensions in time and space. By embracing life cycle approaches, decision makers can capture all potential effects of a decision and ensure that improvements made in one area of time or space do not lead to equal or greater decline elsewhere - a phenomenon referred to as ‘shifting burdens'. Approaches have also been developed to aid decision makers in identifying the various ways that the choices they make can impact upon people and the planet and enable these decision makers to make, sometimes difficult, trade-offs between these impacts through a structured and transparent decision making process. This Engineering Doctorate (EngD) considers the concept of sustainable development in relation to a well established and important industry within the fabric of modem society: the oil refining industry. The first question that this project aims to answer is: ‘Are oil refineries on a path of sustainable development?’ The answer to this question is sought through learning about the principles and practices at a specific UK oil refinery, currently wholly owned by Chevron (Pembroke Refinery, Wales). Although it is recognised that there are questions over whether the conclusions apply to the industry as a whole, the findings are expected to provide some reflection of the wider industry because all multinational oil companies are influenced by the same societal pressures and have evolved through information sharing as well as individual enterprise. A further caveat when seeking to answer this question is the dependency of the oil refining industry on a non-renewable resource - oil - which makes it inherently unsustainable. That said, the alternatives to an oil based economy are still in their infancy and the oil industry is likely to underpin society for the foreseeable future with growth anticipated in developing countries. Promoting sustainable development in the oil refining industry is therefore a case of making the present less unsustainable, rather than the future more sustainable. To answer the stated question, the policies and strategic objectives of Chevron Global Manufacturing (GMfg) and their translation into project prioritisation and execution were critically reviewed against a set of principles for sustainable development. The main findings from this work are summarised as follows: 1. Chevron GMfg gives the protection of people and the local environment utmost priority within its corporate principles and strategic objectives; 2. These principles translate into a well developed hierarchy of decision processes that are designed to handle multiple criteria; 3. Inclusion of environmental criteria in project prioritisation is mainly confined to projects driven by compliance or corporate risk assessments. Where projects are not driven by compliance or risk, environmental criteria tend to be used to aid project prioritisation when economic and strategic criteria are inconclusive; 4. The full potential of the ‘Chevron Project Development and Execution Process' (CPDEP) to handle multiple criteria may not always be realised when a narrow range of criteria dominate the capital allocation decision processes; 5. In-house decision support processes mainly focus on site impacts specific to the immediately surrounding area - they do not encourage life cycle thinking in a spatial sense (although it should be noted that ‘life cycle costs’, relating to the displacement of financial costs across time, are considered). 6. Some legislation, such as clean fuels legislation and biofuels mandates, moves environmental impacts from one part of the fuel chain to another; partly as a result of this legislation, there is some indication that life cycle approaches are starting to come into use at a corporate level. Based on these findings, it is proposed that current practices within Chevron GMfg are not fully aligned with sustainable development although it is recognised that the organisation is continuously improving its approach to incorporate environmental and social aspects into decision making.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Weston, Neil.
Date : 2010
Additional Information : Thesis (Eng.D.)--University of Surrey (United Kingdom), 2010.
Depositing User : EPrints Services
Date Deposited : 14 May 2020 15:43
Last Modified : 14 May 2020 15:47
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/856846

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