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Hydrotreating (HT) is a process that has become synonymous with removing impurities from petroleum feedstocks. By mixing hydrogen and feedstocks under controlled conditions in the presence of a catalyst, contaminants in the form of sulfur-, nitrogen-, and oxygen-containing compounds, as well as metals, can be removed. When the catalyst is designed to remove a specific class of compounds, that fact is reflected in the name of the process, e.g., hydrodesulfurization (HDS), hydrodemetallization (HDM), hydrodenitrogenation (HDN), and hydrodearomatization (HDA)/hydrogenation (HYD).

How it will benefit you

Hydrotreating is suitable for removing contaminants from feedstreams or product streams. For the feedstocks intended for other refinery processes—catalytic cracking, hydrocracking, catalytic reforming, and isomerization—HT protects the sensitive (and costly) catalysts from contamination. In regards to product streams, refiners rely on HT to perform posttreatment in order to meet mandated specifications such as gasoline benzene, sulfur, and also olefins (for European and Californian standards). HDS of diesel is required to satisfy ultra-low sulfur requirements. To a lesser extent, HT may be used to produce 0.5 wt% sulfur bunker fuel oil for the 2020 International Maritime Organization (IMO) mandate. Furthermore, hydrotreaters play a key role in processing unconventional (resid and renewable) feeds to produce more diesel while helping meet stricter environmental regulations. Hydrotreating is not without drawbacks: the capital investment is significant; operating costs (catalysts and hydrogen) can be high; and product quality may be adversely affected by the potential saturation of aromatics and olefins.

Companies and licensers continue to research on and release highly active HDS catalysts that allow for high HDS conversion while limiting the weighted average bed temperature (WABT) of their reactors. Furthermore, the ongoing shale boom and natural gas supply in the US have led to cheaper hydrogen production for refineries, which has opened the door for increased diesel production by increasing the volume swell of a particular unit. New offerings allow for saturation of aromatics in feeds like LCO in order to decrease diesel density and therefore increase the potential gains of incoming crude. Improvement to diesel quality has also been addressed through hydrodewaxing (HDW), which can improve the cloud point and pour point for better cold flow properties. Numerous companies have released technologies which aim to efficiently and effectively dewax a diesel stream through the use of selective catalysts.

What does it include

The current study, completed in 3Q 2022, begins with an updated look at the global hydrotreating market including middle distillate supply and demand fundamentals and the ongoing rebound in diesel and jet fuel demand from the COVID-19 pandemic along with long-term growth in renewable diesel (RD) and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supply and demand.

In addition to a comprehensive list of state-of-the-art technologies, recent innovations feature KF 774 PULSAR which is the second catalyst offering in Albemarle's PULSAR line; ICR 1003 next generation catalyst which is part of Chevron Lummus Global (CLG)'s ICR 1000 hydroprocessing catalyst line; case study on use of Evonik's Excel rejuvenated catalysts; Reactor Resources EnviroSulf Service which is a consultative approach for hydrotreating catalyst sulfiding; Axens proprietary EquiFlow Hy-Quench-XM and Hy-Quench-NG quench systems which feature a more compact design; ICR 800 which is ART's latest RDS demetallization catalyst; ICR 999 which was launched by ART in 2021 and can be used in conjunction with ICR 800; Albemarle's ReNewFine which is the company's catalyst technology for processing renewable feeds in hydrotreating units; HR 700 series which is Axens newest hydrotreating catalyst line that is designed for "sustainable hydrotreatment processes"; Haldor Topsoe's Flight Plan Green initiative that aims to produce HEFA-based sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) with minimal carbon intensity (CI) using its HydroFlex renewable hydroprocessing technology; Haldor Topsoe's PureStep offering which is a chemical recycling technology; and Honeywell UOP's new solution for producing renewable naphtha from animal fats and used cooking oil (UCO) using its existing Ecofining renewable hydrotreating technology.

The study also includes extensive discussions of plant operations and practices that identify valuable operating experiences and daily trouble-shooting techniques shared by veteran refining professionals around the world. New information in the hydrotreating plant operations and practices section includes use of feed filtration systems to minimize fouling in hydrotreating units; proper hydroprocessing catalyst selection; optimizing hydroprocessing catalyst changeouts; and benefits and drawbacks of sock vs. dense loading for hydrotreating catalysts.

To plot future directions of crude and biofeed pretreatment, and product posttreatment, the study gathers and reviews the latest patent applications and research papers regarding hydrotreating innovations, including process designs and catalysts aimed to make naphtha HDS more selective; catalyst supports applicable for ULSD production; resid hydrotreating and heavy oil upgrading innovations; new methods for producing biofuels from renewable feedstocks; and more.

Publication details

Publication frequency

Single publication

Publication format

Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file


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