Best practice of Sustainable Development: Improving environmental footprint, employment and competitiveness through Elefsis refinery upgrade project

Best practice of Sustainable Development: Improving environmental footprint, employment and competitiveness through Elefsis refinery upgrade project


Founded in 1998, HELLENIC PETROLEUM (www.helpe.gr) is one of the leading energy groups in South East Europe, with presence in 6 countries and activities spanning across the energy value chain, namely: oil refining and fuel marketing, exploration and production, renewable energy sources, petrochemicals, power and gas.


Objective Action

The goal of the Elefsis Refinery modernization project was to strengthen the sustainable development of the Group, namely improve the competitiveness and growth of the Group, decline the imports (also a goal at country level), improve the environmental footprint and increase of the employment. Specifically:

Improve competitiveness: The goal was to meet the high demand for middle distillates (diesel) in the internal market (reduction of imports) and in the wider Mediterranean region. Additionally, one of the main objectives was to increase exports, which expected to contribute positively to the country's trade balance.

Environmental improvement: The aim was to improve environmental performance through the implementation of the latest Best Available Techniques and the selection of technologies with high environmental standards and performance.

Enhancing employment: The goal was the creation of new direct and indirect jobs, while safeguarding existing in a highly unstable economic environment.


Target Audience

The project is addressed to the wider public and especially to the business – technical audience, as one of the best investment examples by fulfilling the three sustainable development pillars, since it is related directly to improvement of the environment, the economy, as well as the society mainly through employment.



Construction: 2009 – 2013, start of operation: 2013


The project of the Elefsina refinery was the most difficult and complicated project in techno-economic level that has implemented in recent years in Greece: 20,000,000 man-hours and capital expenditure of over 1.4 billion € (25% related to environmental units). The main purpose of the project was to produce “zero” sulphur fuels that meet market demands. Please note that this investment has phased out the production of fuel oil by converting it to lighter low sulfur fractions (diesel, gasoline). These new fuel types meet even future fuel specifications, in accordance with the requirements of the Greek and European legislation. Best Available Techniques and use of appropriate technology were fully implemented, which helped in reducing pollutant emissions as well as enhancing the refinery safety compared with current levels. The project of Elefsis includes the installation of four (4) new units, five (5) environmental protection units and upgrade of existing utility systems to meet the new operating requirements. Key element of this high environmental standards investment is the Flexicoking Technology, an innovative fluidised bed thermal process that converts heavy fractions of crude oil (e.g. asphalt) to lighter valuable products. The Flexicoking Technology, applied in only 5 other refineries worldwide (the second unit in Europe), is a quite flexible conversion process, which produces middle distillates (mainly diesel) and clean refinery fuel gas. The use of refinery fuel gas (flexigas) for self-consumption in all boilers and furnaces of the refinery, in combination with all the environmental protection units, resulted in significant air emission reductions.


Presentation of the Elefsina refinery in Greek version: http://www.helpe.gr/el/media-center/media-gallery/media-erup and in English version: http://www.helpe.gr/en/media-center/media-gallery/media-erup.


Impact on Society

The project of upgrading Elefsis refinery is one of the best examples of project that takes into account equally the three pillars of sustainable development. After completion of the project, wider benefits occurred such as:

• Imports are substituted with high quality domestic products of high added value.
• Increase of public revenue.
• Secure national fuel supplies and stocks.
• Strengthen the Group's position in Europe and offer developmental impetus, vital to the Greek economy.

• SO2 emissions from combustion sources are reduced by 70,2%, NOx by 11,6% and particulates emissions by 84,2%.
• Ambient air maximum SO2 concentrations related to refinery operations are 40% lower than the legislative limits compared to the average 24hour limit of 125 μg/m3 and 65% compared to average 1hour limit of 350 μg/m3.
• The estimated max 1hour NOx concentration, related to refinery operations, is approximately 50 μg/m3, much lower than the limit of 200 μg/m3.
• PM’s concentrations are considered to be negligible and refinery emissions bear no relation to the high levels of the pollutant’s concentration in the broader area.
• Water effluents quantities as long as other qualitative parameters of treated water effluents are reduced by 24% due to implementation of Best Available Techniques.

• 600 permanent jobs within the facility are secured, subsequently securing a stable income for their families.
• During the 2-years construction phase, many people have worked for this project reaching 3,500 over peak periods (500 engineers included), with the majority of constructors and subcontractors from Greece.
• Creation of new jobs through subcontractors (maintenance or construction projects).
• Creation of numerous supporting jobs during the project (Employees’ catering, transportation other supplies etc).
• Significant support of local market.

Initiative Location

Elefsis Industrial Complex

Working with Organization

Spanish company Τecnicas Reunidas and Asprofos (subsidiary of HELPE S.A.).

Workers Participation

All Hellenic Petroleum employees, the engineers, the technicians, the managers worked with passion and self-denial for a common and ambitious goal: the sustainable development of the Group.


Benefits for Οrganization

The Elefsis upgrade project contributed to the following benefits:

1. Approximately 2,2 million tons of high sulfur fuel oil (> 3.0%) are converted now to:
- 1.320.000 tons zero sulfur diesel
- 450,000 tons of zero sulfur and high quality naphtha, suitable for petrochemical and gasoline production
- 250 MW thermal energy in the form of pure gas with low calorific value for incineration in the ovens instead of fuel oil. Exports increased from 20% to over 50% of total sales, contributing positively to the country's trade balance.

2. Flexicoking which is the main pillar of the project is a continuous fluid bed thermal conversion process with integrated coke gasification to produce a clean fuel gas and is versatile in the gasification of coke. Since this clean gas can be used in furnaces or boilers, it can be utilised in a wide range of processes, contributing to lower emission of several atmospheric pollutants such as particulates, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, as flexigas is a clean fuel.
3. Ensured the group’s sustainability and development in an extremely adverse economic context for the refining industry worldwide.
4. Greater security in the country's fuel stock.

Connection with Global Goals

No Connection with Global Goals found

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