Energy Group

Principal Investigator

Francisco Lemos (Professor at IST/ULisboa)


The Energy Group of CERENA will have three main fields of action: hydrocarbons; renewable fuels (low-carbon energy), energy efficiency.

The group will be supported by the different laboratories that will focus on the production of chemical fuels and energy efficiency.

The production of fuels from different sources, both fossil and non-fossil or renewable ones, bear extensive similarities. Thus, the objective of developing integrated approaches to the issues involved in the production of fuels from these different sources is better served if the integration is carried-out up to the research lines involved, although bearing in mind specificities that are associated with each source. Energy efficiency, on the other hand, involves different methodologies and will focus a lot more on energy and process integration and intensification, justifying a sub-group of its own. Nevertheless these two focuses will always function in an integrated way.

The production of chemical fuels has been, for a long time, mainly centred on the use of oil, gas and coal and most of the existent processes and technologies have been developed around these three primary sources of energy. The issues that are raised by  climate changes associated with the use of fossil fuels have put some pressure on the development of new processes to produce the type of fuels that are used in modern society from different non-fossil sources. Although there is a general idea that the processes for the production of new forms of energy from renewable sources will require completely new processes, this is only true up to a point. In fact the production of fuels from different sources has been around for many years and gasification has been extensively used in the past by some countries to produce liquid fuels from non-oil sources. It is certainly true that the first steps in converting biomass material into chemical fuels may differ from source to source, and that some forms of fuels will finally require entirely new processes to be produced, as it is the case, for instances of trans-esterification biodiesel production, but, in most cases, it is expectable that the use of biomass will produce fuels that will have to undergo further refining to be able to be used in current equipment and that the refining operations involved will bear large similarities, if not completely overlapping, with the processes that are currently used in the oil refining industry. In this context it is reasonable to support the development on existing knowledge and technologies, justifying the single sub-group on chemical fuel production, which will encompass the full range of processes from exploration, production and refining. This sub-group has extensive connections with industrial partners in the different areas, both in fossil fuels (GALP and Partex) and in renewable fuels (IBEROL and PRIO). This area will be mostly based on the following laboratories resources: Energy and Environment Engineering, Organic Synthesis and Raw Materials Processing, Geomechanics, Modelling Petroleum Reservoirs, Geomathics and Mineralogy, Petrology and Geochemistry.

The energy efficiency focus will also be supported by the same laboratories, but in particular by the Laboratory of Process Optimization for Energy Efficiency and Technology that will  address issues related to process integration (in particular in respect to energy integration) and intensification. Process integration and intensification are keywords associated with the general increase of efficiency in terms of process usage of raw-materials and energy and the members of CERENA have a wide experience in these areas, in particular the researchers associated with the National Group for Process Integration. Also in this area the connection with industrial and governmental partners will be emphasized, in line with the action carried out in the past; it is worth to mention in particular GALP and ADENE.


In the current energy context, and despite the development of other energy sources, chemical fuels remain the major portion of the primary energy sources and even in the 450 scenario proposed by IEA chemical fuels will supply the majority of the world energy requirements. Chemical fuels include both conventional fuels, like oil, gas and coal, which account for much of current consumption, but also renewable fuels.

The Energy Group will have three main objectives: to develop innovative methodologies for the use of hydrocarbons, to develop new methodologies for the production and use of renewable energy, particularly chemical fuels and geothermal energy, and to improve energy efficiency, in particular in industrial applications. These objectives are mostly in agreement with the specific objectives and research areas established by the third Societal Challenge identified by Horizon2020 “Secure, clean and efficient energy”, with a particular emphasis on low carbon energy sources.

In the context of conventional sources we will develop innovative and multidisciplinary work, combining the expertise of Mine, Chemical and Process Engineers. In exploration, where the team has already a large experience we will interact with major players in the oil business, in particular with national companies, like GALP and Partex, to develop methods that are suitable for the new challenges that are raised by the discovery of new oil fields that are harder to reach and analyse. In relation to Production, the CERENA team’s objective will include the use of a multidisciplinary approach in the hot subjects in production, like Flow Assurance and Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). This approach will be continued into the Refining area, where the new oil reservoirs also bring additional challenges in view of the increasing amounts of heavy, extra-heavy and acid crudes that are available. The team also has a significant experience in dealing with energy efficiency and environmental issues involved in the complete chain of oil and gas processing. CERENA’s team is also closely involved in the Oil and Gas Platform of IST where this multidisciplinary approach will gain a transdisciplinary dimension by the interaction with research groups from other fields.

Another objective will be to develop sustainable and renewable chemical fuels. The production of liquid fuels from sources other than oil has been in place for a long time, in particular with the Fischer-Tropsch process. The team involved in CERENA has also significant work done in the field of biofuel production, both trans-esterification biofuels and new generations of biofuels using lignocellulosic material, by gasification, pyrolysis and liquefaction. In this context the use of waste as an energy source (sludge, sewage, residues is also envisaged, starting with the dehydration steps for which very good facilities at pilot plant scale are available. Focus will also be put on the Integration of renewable fuel production in current refining and biorefining units.

The third objective will be to develop new strategies for energy efficiency in industrial units resorting to process integration and intensification techniques.

Finally, CERENA will focus on the expansion of the utilization of deep geothermal resources (EGS). Through partnerships with local municipalities, industry and universities, we will contribute to the development of geothermal energy as an economically competitive contributor to the Portuguese energy supply.  The Military Academy project (funded by the Ministry of Defence / Portuguese Army) will demonstrate the feasibility of low-temperature geothermal facilities at the Military Academy for heating and cooling of some of the buildings and prepare the implementation of a pilot geothermal heat pump system (GHPS) demonstration project.

This project will thus have a demonstrative role of the usability of these technologies in military (and civilian) Portuguese installations.

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