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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Quarterly Issues)

Publication date:4Q 2018
Item#: B21804

FCC, and Plant Revamps and Upgrades


Many technology developers and also refiners have held a strong belief over the past decade that FCCUs must produce more light cycle oil (LCO) to meet the global "dieselization" trend. However, Europe's dieselization trend—or the large-scale shift from gasoline-fueled vehicles to diesel-fueled ones—appears to be in the process of reversing, primarily due to the Volkswagen software-cheating scandal in 2015 and due to the difficulty diesel engines have with satisfying stringent emission standards. For many years, governments encouraged diesel sales as they saw mileage benefits of diesel as better for the environment and for combatting global warming. But now, regulations are in place to restrict consumption due to smog concerns. Many European cities and countries are enacting policies unfavorable for diesel usage, such as taxes and outright diesel bans for personal road transportation that are encouraging drivers to buy electric vehicles (EVs) and gasoline cars.

The movement away from European diesel consumption for personal road transportation may be coming at a good time because there will be a strong demand for diesel in meeting the IMO 2020 low-sulfur bunker rules. And with the US facing slowing gasoline demand growth and increasing diesel demand from the transportation sector, the FCC may be depended on more in the future for middle distillates production.

On the other hand, with the increasing personal vehicle ownership in developing countries such as China and India, the FCCU will continue to be relied upon as the primary gasoline-maker within many refineries. Also, FCCUs oriented towards maximizing propylene production will remain in demand in the future as the increased use of shale-derived light feeds in crackers has reduced co-product propylene supply.

The role of the FCCU has developed for a wide array of feedstocks and products. Continued FCC technology developments have focused on widening the boiling range of the feed that can be processed in the unit, manufacturing petrochemicals like light olefins and BTX, and maximizing LCO yields in some cases and shifting production away from LCO towards gasoline in others. Increasing focus is also being given to the co-processing of biofeeds in the FCCU.

Novel catalyst and additive formulations and production methods allow for the handling of increasingly difficult feedstocks with improved activity and selectivity. Also new additives that lower FCC gasoline sulfur or boost octane address the tightening specifications on motor gasoline being implemented around the world. And, additives continue to be developed that lower emissions from the regenerator to minimize the impact on the environment.

Additionally, the fluid catalytic cracking section features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

Plant Revamps and Upgrades

There are several major drivers behind revamp projects undertaken by refiners: retrofitting to accommodate changing crudes (particularly increasing availability of price-advantaged crudes) and making products in demand, meeting environmental and safety regulations, improving profit margins via higher energy efficiency, and marrying the latest information (IT) technologies (e.g. sensors, actuators, wireless devices and so on) and operational technologies (OT) in terms of digital transformation to enhance operational efficiency and further optimize unit performance.

Moving forward, the implementation of advanced technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence) during refinery revamps and turnarounds will become increasingly important to ensure the long-term viability of said refinery. According to vice president and chief technology officer (CTO) for Honeywell Process Solutions Bruce Calder, connectivity will be the main driver for improving a processing plant's productivity, profitability, and safety record. Mr. Calder cites the implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT), which enables physical objects to "both communicate with and sense the world around them" while also providing key information to personnel wherever and whenever it is needed. He says the use of IoT will provide numerous benefits to processing plants including a reduction in unplanned shutdowns, as the availability of timely and meaningful information will allow a problem to be identified before a problem arises. Mr. Calder cites the use of sensors embedded in pipes combined with real-time data from other networked units that can identify hidden corrosion before it leads to a failure. Reducing the number of unplanned shutdowns will not only lead to an increase in plant productivity and profitability but also improve plant safety as well. The use of the cloud within the IoT will be key as data will need to be integrated across a number of processing plants to track information. By having access to these data, businesses can have a better understanding of how plants are performing before large investment decisions are made.

According to Gartner, "Innovations such as smart, connected products, the industrial Internet of Things (IoT), digital twins, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence will be key to productivity improvement...through 2022. The proliferation of digital products and subsystems to enable the IoT in downstream industries and generate revenue from smart products over their entire life cycle will be the most promising (and complex) driver for new IT spending growth through 2022."

The installation of a deeper, integrated refinery-wide information system that includes the processing operation history of each individual refinery unit will help to indicate or forecast operational upsets on these devices, enabling preventative measures to be undertaken prior to any upset. This deeper, integrated refinery-wide information system can include numerical computational methods along with more-recent computational neuro-science and chaos theory. A refiner looking to implement a deeper, integrated refinery-wide information system should also contact catalyst vendors and technology licensers to assist in optimizing operational parameter set-up to improve the results of the system, and help determine catalyst lifecycles.

Additionally, the plant revamps and upgrades section 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: primary conversion process, gasoline, diesel, LCO, propylene, butylenes, light olefins, LPG, fluidized bed, riser, ULSD, ULSG, ultra-low sulfur, rare earth, dieselization, SOX, NOX, slurry oil, fuel oil, fuel specifications, gasoline benzene, reformulated gasoline, RFG, CO, particulate matter, mild FCC, dual-riser, multiple riser, ZSM-5, additives, zeolite, matrix, co-catalysts, RFCC, biofeeds, catalyst regenerator, power recovery, advanced process control, opportunity crudes, energy efficiency, electrostatic precipitators, ESP, flue gas scrubber, tight oil, residual feeds, butylenes