Transnational Research Associates


The Environmental Advantages of

Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel Pretreatment Technology


Art Madsen, M.Ed.


A Special Report prepared by SK Corporation for Royal Dutch Shell Group Engineers




This research report, constituting a position paper promoting SK Corporation’s new sulfur reduction process, intends to discuss and promote a recognized method of hydrocarbon pretreatment that will ensure compliance with new environmental standards enacted in Europe and elsewhere.  It is an effective process perfected by SK Corporation designed to yield ultra low sulfur diesel fuel, but its underlying technology can be adapted to other grades of fuels


The processing of hydrocarbons is a complex, technically challenging and costly procedure.  There are several objectives that must be achieved to produce industrial-grade diesel fuels. One of these objectives, in this increasingly environmentally conscious world, is attaining acceptably low levels of sulfur when processing petrochemicals and hydrocarbons in today’s oil refineries.


These thoughts, and all supplemental material to be presented below, are aimed at the petrochemical engineering staff of Royal Dutch Shell Group, based in the Netherlands (Jacobi, 2001), because this world-scale company is in an excellent position to ensure widespread implementation of this vital technology.


Brief Background of Technological Development


It is important, therefore for Royal Dutch Shell engineers to recognize that, according to Kane (2001), SK Corporation of South Korea has perfected a pretreatment process that can be easily incorporated into most refineries.  Prior to SK’s invention, diesel fuels were refined without a pretreatment stage and the result yielded a medium to high amount of sulfur.  Under pressure throughout the 1970s and 1980s (Ranney, 1975), the European Economic Community, as well as environmental forces in the United States, began to pressure the industry to remove more sulfur, while making sure not to emit excess amounts of CO2.  Royal Dutch Shell can play an instrumental role in testing and installing this desulfurization pretreatment technology in Europe and elsewhere.




 Within Royal Dutch Shell Group, petrochemical and process engineers who are certainly aware of the broad implications of the excess sulfur issue, but who need to be informed of the SK pretreatment solution, are those who should be especially interested in learning about this new process.  Such engineering specialists are at the very heart of all technical operations within oil refineries, and especially within Royal Dutch Shell refining operations.  They are considered key professional personnel empowered to make major decisions on the basis of their technical expertise.  It is highly probable, of course, that they will question the applicability and cost-effectiveness of SK Corporation’s pre-treatment process.  Specific questions these engineers might pose include the following:


                Royal Dutch Shell Inquiry                       SK Corporation’s Reply

Has this low sulfur pretreatment process been proven on an industrial scale?

Yes, largely in the Netherlands and in Belgium under heavy industrial conditions. 

Is it cost-effective; does it fall within EEC cost-parameters?

Under most circumstances. In instances where it does not, adaptations can be made.

Will this process produce excessive amounts of CO2  a by-product of  producing and using low-sulfur fuels?

Theoretically, CO2 emissions will be minimal when desulfurization is begun at the pretreatment stage.

Where can this equipment be located within the refinery?

Virtually anywhere, according to Kane (2001) and SK Corporation.

How is it mechanically interconnected with other refinery equipment?

This varies and is explained in Kane (2001), in Bertelsen (1998), and on the graphic insert below.




The following graphic insert indicates basic pretreatment process stages, providing information to supplement the elementary questions answered above.

Figure II

It is essential to persuade Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical engineers of the efficacy of the SK pretreatment process, partially sketched above, and its ability to comply with EEC standards now calling for (ppm) of sulfur in diesel fuel, and to do so prior to 2005. According to authoritative sources such as Kane (2001), the SK process is the best of several options for removing sulfur.  The Purvin and Gertz report (cited in Perez, 1999) outlines environmental requirements that were not met with any technologies, except presumably the SK process.


Equally important, this new low sulfur standard will lead to improvement of the air we breathe and will positively affect even the food we grow.  If other low sulfur technologies under development fail to comply with US or EEC standards for minimum sulfur content, the consequences could be catastrophic. Such a possibility would seem to make SK’s proven technology all the more valuable. 




The SK process seems to be the most efficient and cost-effective of all pretreatment technologies available for diesel fuel.  Although a complete survey of alternative solutions to the high sulfur problem could not be undertaken in this research report, it is apparent to both SK Corporation’s and Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical engineers that the recommended pretreatment process is ideal for ensuring compliance with EEC standards, and those outlined in the Kyoto Protocol (Perez, 1999).  It is therefore strongly urged that the technology offered by SK Corporation, as outlined in considerable detail in Hydrocarbon Processing (Kane, 2001), be adopted in Royal Dutch Shell plants across the United States and Europe in order to further prove its efficiency and compliance with environmental standards, in the hope that it will be installed on an even wider scale.


Bertelsen, B. (1998, March) MECA supports auto industry’s call for reduction of sulfur

levels in gasoline. Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association, Retrieved from the World Wide Web:


Chey T.W., President (2001). Sulfur / FCC Oil. S.K. Corporation, Retrieved  October 22,

2001 from the World Wide Web. http://eng.skcorp/product/petroleum/hs~petroleum.html


Jacobi, M. (2001, October) Vice President External Affairs, The Shell Report: Reporting

on our Economic, Environmental and Social Responsibilities. Royal Dutch Shell Group, Retrieved from the World Wide Web, October 27, 2001),6091,,00.html


Kane, L, Editor (2001, September). Pretreatment Method for Low-Sulfur Diesel.

Hydrocarbon Processing, 34-35.


Nriagu, J. (1998). Sulfur in the environment, Second Edition.  New York: Wiley.


Perez, A  (1999). Petroleum Downstream Sector Industry Foundation Paper. Canadian

Petroleum Products Institute (CPPI), Retrieved October 22, 2001 from the World Wide Web.


Ranney, M. (1975) Desulfurization of petroleum. Park Ridge, N.J.: Noyes Data



Weirauch, W. (2001, August). HP In Brief: What are costs for further sulfur reductions in              

EU fuels?  Hydrocarbon Processing, 9.