Membrane Technology for Separation of Hydrocarbons

Petroleum (crude oil) is a mixture of different hydrocarbons, or fractions. To produce petroleum products, it is necessary to separate the various fractions to be used for different applications. We are engaged in research on membrane separation, aimed at application of this next-generation technology to oil refining and petrochemical processes.
The separation of hydrocarbons has typically involved distillation, which relies on differences in the boiling points of the components. By contrast, membrane separation is a technology in which separation is performed using a membrane, through which only certain molecules can pass. It is expected to create high-value products because not only does it use less energy than distillation, it also can separate components that cannot be separated by boiling point (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Comparison of membrane separation and distillation (conceptual diag.)

Membrane manufacturing technology has come a long way in recent years. Our company is working to advance the technology for use in our plants, and also looking for new ways to use it, leveraging our position of having refineries of different configurations. Through early adoption of the latest technologies, we ensure that our refineries operate more efficiently and produce a better product.

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