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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Individual Technology)

Publication date:2Q 2012
Item#: B1026

Environmental Controls

Flue gas from industrial sources is known to contain a large amount of compounds (e.g., CO, NOX, SOX, PM) that are considered harmful to the environment. Government agencies have set standards to control the amount of these compounds that are released to the atmosphere with western nations imposing increasingly stringent limits on the amount of these pollutants that are permitted to be discharged from stationary sources. As a result, refiners in areas like Europe and the US must now install pollution control technology to ensure that they are in compliance with these tougher standards or risk being fined for non-compliance.

There are a number of environmental control technologies that are available to refiners looking to comply with local emissions standards, and most of these technologies can be implemented as either a stand alone unit or as a retrofit to an existing unit. Flue gas scrubbing systems (both wet and regenerable) that control refinery SOX and PM emissions are a popular technology choice for refiners. The application of older, well developed electrostatic precipitator (ESP) technology is seeing a resurgence as refineries work to meet particulate emissions requirements. Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and Selective Non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) process and catalyst technologies are offered to limit NOX emissions along with low and ultra-low NOX burners. Clean burn flaring equipment is being installed to minimize the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to the atmosphere. Unit specific hardware and additive technology is also available to reduce emissions from individual processes. FCC feed injection systems, third and fourth stage separators, and low NOX regenerators along with NOX and SOX reduction additives and CO combustion promoters are all available to mitigate emissions from the FCC regenerator. Finally, various sulfur plant units (i.e., acid gas removal, Claus, tailgas treater) are available to reduce refinery emissions.

However, because environmental control technologies represent a compliance cost and do not add any real value to a refiner's bottom line, plant management must take into account installation and operating costs to determine which technology will allow them to meet an emissions reduction goal at the lowest cost possible. For example, a refiner who had installed a wet flue gas scrubber downstream of a FCCU to mitigate SOX emissions was likely seeking an alternative solution to control SOX circa 2005-2006 following a spike in the price of lime and limestone. In light of the higher lime and limestone prices, a number of refiners switched to SOX reduction additives to lower costs. Subsequently, a spike in the price of rare earth metals that occurred in 2010-2011 created a situation where the use of SOX reduction additives that incorporated rare earths was no longer seen as the most cost-effective means to mitigating SOX emissions from refinery FCCUs. Constant monitoring of emissions control technology performance and costs are necessary to ensure that refiners remaining in compliance at the lowest cost possible. Additionally, the environmental controls section features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

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