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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Quarterly Issues)

Publication date:1Q 2020
Item#: B22001

Sulfur Plant and Refinery IoT

Sulfur Plant

The need for on-purpose sulfur production has become non-existent, as byproduct sulfur production from refineries and upstream oil and gas production sites more than meets the current demand for sulfur in the market. Further, major new supplies of byproduct sulfur are expected to be introduced into market over the coming years due to tightening product specifications for transportation fuels, developing sour gas fields in the Middle East, and increasing oilsands production in Canada.

Typically, refinery sulfur plants consist of an acid gas removal unit, a Claus sulfur recovery unit, a tailgas treatment unit (to achieve sulfur recovery levels >99.99%), and, in some instances, sulfur degasification and finishing processes. The amount of sulfur produced by each refinery will differ based on a number of factors including sulfur content in the feed coupled with the final product slate and final product specifications. This section of the Review will focus on the recovery of sulfur in a refinery setting; specifically omitted from the discussion is sulfur recovery technologies that are focused on upstream applications, such as oil and gas production.

Continued sulfur plant technology developments have focused on improving the energy efficiency of the acid gas removal unit, Claus unit, and tailgas treatment unit in order to lower operating costs as sulfur removal is done at a cost to the refiner and offers little back in terms of value, so minimizing costs is necessary to improve margins. Additionally, the utilization of Claus plants that can recover sulfur while mitigating the effects of high levels of ammonia and BTX was also discussed as deeper levels of HDS needed to meet more stringent gasoline sulfur requirements tend to increase ammonia production. Also, the use of separate processing units to process sour water stripper gas to free existing Claus capacity has been commercialized. Finally, processes that can produce sulfuric acid from recovered sulfur may become more popular due to the expected sulfur glut that will occur over the coming years as an uptick in high-quality gasoline demand growth has fueled growth for alkylate. The sulfur plant section also features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

Refinery Digitalization & IoT

Refiners have the difficult task of maintaining profitability in the face of challenges such as the growth in the petrochemicals sector, evolving plant emissions requirements and fuel regulations, the increased use of alternative transportation fuels, the new wave of refining capacity expected to come onstream in the near future, and the projected drop in growth in global oil demand. As a result, refiners are increasingly seeking to improve plant productivity and efficiency in addition to operating safety and reliability.

The quest to increase refinery margins and achieve improvements in plant reliability, run-time, and safety has led to a growing interest as well as increasing investment in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The 'things' in the IIoT are relatively inexpensive wireless sensors and other devices that are deployed in a widespread manner throughout the refinery to collect operating data such as temperature, pressure and flowrate. This information is processed and relevant data is identified and made available to other machines as well as engineers, operators and other refinery personnel. The core part of the IIoT is analytics, which are used to monitor the data so that plant personnel can be notified of important information that requires immediate action. This type of predictive analysis can help to improve process performance through the monitoring of the condition of equipment such as pumps, motors, drive systems, heat exchangers, valves and pipes. It can minimize degradation and detect operation at a suboptimal level as well as impending failure so that downtime is reduced and safety improved. And it can allow for a throughput increase that boosts profitability.

Increasing the collection of valuable data in the refinery continues to be a priority. Also, analytics remains a major area of focus as new software has been introduced that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide actionable insights from generated data. Some software developers are now also offering self-service analytics, which enable companies to fully capitalize on collected data without having to employ a data scientist. New products are also available that allow refiners to create a digital twin of plants, processes and assets that can be used for monitoring, operator training, and process control. And, as cybersecurity remains a challenge that needs to be addressed, companies continue to form partnerships for the development of various solutions that can enable the oil and gas sector to safely reap the full benefits of the IIoT. Finally, companies are utilizing IIoT solutions as part of asset performance management strategies. The refinery IIoT section also features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

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The Review is sold for the exclusive use of the subscriber. No other use, duplication, or publication of the Review or any part contained therein is permitted without written consent from Hydrocarbon Publishing Company, P.O. Box 815, Paoli PA 19301-0815 (USA).

Keywords: SRU, acid gas removal, AGR, Claus unit, tailgas treating, TGT, SOX, desulfurization, CO2, COS, clean fuels specification, H2S, ultra-low sulfur, ULSD, ULSG, clean fuels, elemental sulfur, direct oxidation, amine scrubbing, amine solvent, advanced process control, acid gas corrosion, foaming, amine loss, fuel gas sweetening, ammonia destruction, BTX destruction, sour crude, sub dew-point Claus, oxygen-enriched Claus, sulfur degasification, sulfur finishing, sulfur granulation, analyzers, instrumentation, sour water stripper gas, Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT, digitalization, connectivity, sensor, transmitter, drone, data collection, data storage, cloud, data quality, data platform, analytics, machine learning, platform-as-a-service, IIoT platform, digital ecosystem, cyber-attacks, cybersecurity, SIEM, malware, artificial intelligence, AI, asset performance optimization