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Hydrocracking (HC) is utilized in refineries to upgrade a variety of feeds that range from coker naphtha to various heavy gas oils and residual fractions into lighter molecules. The hydrocracking process has emerged as the primary diesel producer in many refinery configurations, and as environmental regulations on transportation fuels continue to tighten, the hydrocracker will be one of the tools available to refiners to meet new product specifications. Unlike FCCU processes, hydrocrackers can effectively yield ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) streams whereas middle-distillate range FCC products (i.e. light cycle oil, LCO) will regularly require additional treating to meet product blending specifications.

How it will benefit you

Hydrocracking units can offer improved flexibility to shift production modes between gasoline and diesel (or called gas oil) products based on process selection, operating conditions, and catalysts used. The severity (e.g., temperature, H2 partial pressure, LHSV, process configuration, catalyst type, etc.) of the unit is set based upon the composition and properties of the feedstock processed and the desired conversion level and/or product distribution. Certain feeds (e.g., paraffinic) may be difficult to crack and thus require a higher operating temperature, while others (e.g., aromatic feeds) may have a high tendency for coke formation and, thus, require special catalyst formulations. Hydrocracker operators have been looking to increase the profitability of the unit by processing heavier feedstreams, including heavy vacuum gas oil (HVGO), FCC LCO, coker gas oil, visbroken gas oil, deasphalted oil, and resid feeds, while minimizing the hydrogen consumption and boosting overall energy efficiency. Residual feeds present the problems of increased H2 consumption, lower product yields and quality, and reduction in cycle length. Technology developers have been searching for methods to allow for hydrocracking units to continue normal operation while processing these difficult-to-handle feeds. These optimized parameters include higher liquid-gas distribution and reactor volume efficiency. Along with optimized process parameters, catalyst companies are also developing novel formulations that aim to increase process performance while dealing with these challenging feeds. These novel catalysts may be paired with state-of-the-art reactor internals to maximize performance.

Process designers and catalyst manufacturers are feverishly developing cost-effective and energy-efficient hydrocracking technology and revamp options to satisfy the refining industry around the world. Hydrocracking technology licensers are looking at new ways to remove heavy polynuclear aromatics (HPNAs) from the unit as the buildup of HPNAs can lead to increased catalyst deactivation and fouling. Multiple-phase hydroprocessing units have also been developed to minimize hydrogen consumption while also reducing unit severity. Finally, the utilization of hydrocracking technologies to upgrade resid and/or renewable feeds to produce additional supplies of high-quality liquid products has been covered extensively through commercial projects and R&D work over the past several years.

What does it include

The current study, completed in 2Q 2021, begins with an updated look at the global hydrocracking market including middle distillate supply and demand fundamentals and prices and the ongoing recovery in diesel and jet fuel demand following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to a comprehensive list of state-of-the-art technologies, recent innovations feature a case study on Chevron Lummus Global working with a refiner to expand the capacity of its two-stage recycle (TSREC) hydrocracking unit to boost lube and UCO make; discussion on DuPont Clean Technologies IsoTherming technology and its ability to lower CO2 emissions by reducing H2 loss throughout the unit; Haldor Topsoe's High-Efficiency Liquid Phase scale catcher (HELPsc), which is a two-phase dual-stage catalyst basket scale catcher; a case study on Haldor Topsoe working with CEPSA to upgrade the catalyst on the hydrocracker at CEPSA's La Rabida refinery; Shell Catalysts & Technologies Hycon MB resid hydrocracking technology that comprises an SDA unit, a DAO hydrocracker with Shell Hycon Moving Bed (MB) technology, and a gasification unit; and a detailed discussion on the ongoing conversion of hydrocracking capacity at US refineries to produce renewable diesel (RD).

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 hydrocracking plant operations and practices section includes increasing the inlet temperature of a VGO hydrocracker to increase/improve the heat transfer rate of the austenitic stainless-steel tubes of the VGO hydrocracker reactor charge heater and addressing amine carryover in a VGO mild hydrocracker.

To plot future hydrocracking directions, the study gathers and reviews the latest patent applications and research papers regarding hydrocracking technology, including novel hydrocracking catalyst compositions and preparation methods; product-selective hydrocracking innovations designed to maximize the output of middle distillates, naphtha, gasoline, BTX, or LPG/light olefins; resid hydrocracking works including ebullated- and slurry-bed developments; hydrocracking of alternative feeds derived from Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) liquids and bio-based feeds; and more.

Publication details

Publication frequency

Single publication

Publication format

Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file


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