Editor's note: The HPInsight article posted below is
included in this month's Hydrocarbon Processing print edition.
To read the top April 2012 headlines, click here.)
Remaining profitable continues to
be a critical issue for hydrocarbon processing facilities. Balancing new technology with government mandates
is a thorny problem. Environmental issues add more cost
to refined products. Changes in transportation fuels continue
as vehicle manufacturers update engine designs. R&D and
innovative inventors continue to find solutions to old and new
challenges of the hydrocarbon processing industry (HPI).
Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, April 2002:
Clean fuels: Estimated $7
billion in US refining capital spending.
In 1999, The Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) released Tier II sulfur mandates, as part of the Clean
Fuels Program. These rules require lowering sulfur
concentrations in gasoline to 30 ppm by 2006. Compliance with
the low-sulfur guidelines for gasoline and diesel is deemed to
be complicated. Most refiners have studied two possible
options: revamping diesel hydrotreaters or constructing new
desulfurization units. A study of the 162 US refineries
identified construction of 96 new
desulfurization units, representing $6.6 billion in total
OPEC recommends output
freeze; group will meet again in June. OPEC continues
to maintain its crude oil output until the global economy
and/or demand improves. The group also hopes to improve crude
oil contributions from non-OPEC producers.
Controversy swirls around
renewable fuel standard. The American Petroleum
Institute (API) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) have
joined forces against pending legislation to ban methyl
tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and to create a renewable fuel
standard. The new mandate would require use of approximately 5
billion gallons of ethanol in gasoline before 2012. By
providing liability protection to ethanol but not for MTBE,
refiners will have significant incentives to abandon MTBE
blending before the four-year ban takes effect.
Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, April 1992:
Crude oil to remain
inexpensive for two years, said the
renowned energy economist, P. K. Verleger. OPEC cut
nearly 2 million bpd of production to attain a $21/bbl minimum
reference set in July 1990. However, curtailment wont
hold prices at current levels, Verleger said.
curtails emissions. Year-long trials
are underway in Helsinki, Finland, with a new diesel
fuel that promises to cut both sulfur and particulate emissions from public transport
vehicles. City diesel was developed by Neste Oil,
based on surveys with engine manufacturers. The new diesel has
a lowsulfur content (0.005 wt% as compared to 0.1 wt% to
0.2 wt% of present diesel) and is also less aromatic.
Synthetic rubber demand on
the rise. Recovery in the global synthetic rubber (SR)
market is anticipated. Worldwide consumption of SR and natural
rubber will increase over the next five years (19911996)
to 15.8 million tons, thus having an average annual 2.1% demand
growth rate. All geographical regions should experience new
growth. However, demand in Central Europe and the Commonwealth of
Independent States (CIS) is expected to decline 17% over the
OSHA issues final rule for
chemicals PSM. The US Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule entitled, Process
Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals in the
Federal Register on Feb. 24, 1992. This rule requires
employers to manage hazards associated with processes using
materials identified as highly hazardous. It will affect any
industry that produces, uses, stores, transports or handles any
of these materials in amounts equal to or greater than the
specified quantity. As part of the rule, employers must compile
written process safety information, conduct hazard analyses,
develop and implement written operating procedures, train
employees on the written procedures, and more. Twelve criteria
are included under the new rule.
Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, April 1982:
LPG emerging as the motor
fuel for fleet vehicles. Once again, motor vehicles
powered with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are under
consideration, especially for fleet applications. Industry
statistics indicate that more than 500,000 vehicles per year
will be converted to propane during the 1980s. Most of the
converted LPG vehicles will be part of municipal fleets, such
as police cars and other emergency vehicles.
Get jet fuel from shale oil
in single step? Amoco Oils new experimental
catalyst moved closer to the reality of converting shale oil
into aviation fuel.
Synfuels viability boils
down to economics. A coal gasification plants
product would have to net $17/MMBtu in 1988 (as compared to
$100/bbl of crude oil). At present, the most expensive category
of natural gas is about $9/MMBtu. Capital cost for a synfuels
facility is another huge factor; construction costs for coal
gasification units continue to rise. The present oil glut,
temporary or not, is another factor.
Natural gas price
decontrol? Decontrol of the US natural gas (NG) market
remains a controversial subject. As a major consumer, the US
chemical industry remains vulnerable to NG supply shortages.
Shortfalls are attributed to inadequate incentives under the
Natural Gas Policy Act (NGPA), passed in 1978.
NGPA has contributed to significant disruption in the NG
Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, April 1972:
Heavy-oil cracking process
developed. Kellogg International and Phillips
Petroleum have developed a new heavy-oil cracking (HOC) process
that can convert residuals from the atmospheric or vacuum
towers directly into high-octane gasoline. The Kellogg-Phillips
HOC Process disposes of high-sulfur residuals by extending the
feedstock range for fluid catalytic
cracking. The first unit was constructed at Phillips
Borger, Texas, refinery, and it has an operating
capacity of 25,000 bpd.
Anti-pollution control will
cost billions by 1976. Over the next four years, petrochemical/chemical companies
will invest $1.43 billion on capital equipment alone for environmental projects. Total estimated costs for
water, air and solid-waste pollution-control projects will bump
$12.7 billion by 1976.
Lead drops, but US octane
holds up. Despite a drop in the average lead content,
the octane of regular and premium gasoline at US service
stations remains at a high level. Octane levels were maintained
by altering the proportions of fuel additives, and by
incorporating new blending methods, to compensate for the lower
lead content. In 1972, lead content in gasoline dropped from
2.43 g/gal to 2.22g/gal.
New desulfurization process
available. Chisso Engineering of Japan has developed a
new desulfurization process that can compete with conventional
hydrogenation processes. The new process uses water at
250°C to melt and extract undesirable compounds from
petroleum at a fifth of the cost of other methods.
Takahax process recovers
sulfur dioxide directly from gases with very low
hydrogen sulfide (H2S) content. The process was
originally developed in Japan. Nissan Engineering has
constructed 40 units, and has issued an exclusive license to
Ford, Bacon & Davis to design and construct Takahax units
in the Western Hemisphere. The process uses a caustic solution
with an oxidation-reduction catalyst to remove nearly 100% of
Alaska pipeline seems far
offand expensive. The Alyeska Pipeline Service
Co. says the cost of the pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez
would be about $3 billion. Putting this pipeline through Canada
would double construction costs. There is still no (US)
government approval on the construction project, but the approval is
expected no later than mid-June (1972).
Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing and Petroleum
Refiner, April 1962:
Esso designs a baby
cat cracker. A new fluid-catalytic cracker with
substantially lower operating and investment costs has been
designed by Esso R&D. This unit can provide operating
capacities below 5,000 bpd, and it is referred to as the
kitty cracker. The capacity range of the commercial
model is 1,500 bpd to 20,000 bpd.
New ethanolamines process
developed. Leonard Process has announced a new
ethanolamine process that
is based on reacting excess aqueous ammonia with ethylene oxide
at elevated temperatures and pressures. The new process is
completely automated; it is more energy efficient and consumes
less utilities. The new process provides more operating
flexibility; it can process three ethanolamine
productsmono-, di- and tri-ethanolamines.
Labor productivity study
released on the US refining industry. A study by the
Department of Labor is the first analysis of the hydrocarbon processing industry (HPI) by
a government group. Some interesting findings are: In 1947, the
US had 361 refineries; only 291 are in operation in 1959.
However, refining capacity throughput increased from 5.3
million bpd to 9.5 million bpd in 1959. Likewise, plant size
increased. Over the same period, HPI employment decreased 7%.
With a smaller workforce, production output increased 105%, and
total salaries and wages increased 76%.
Headlines from Petroleum Refiner, April 1952:
US natural gasoline
industry has more than doubled its output since the
end of WWII. This industry continues to build. Texas is the
leading natural gasoline producing state and it accounts for
half of the domestic output. In 1945, there were just slightly
more than 200 Texas plants engaged in removing hydrocarbons
from natural gas. Today, approximately 350 plants now operate
in Texas; these facilities have an average capacity
of 1,000 bpd.
Too costly and
superfluous is the opinion of the National Petroleum
Council (NPC) on synthetic fuels. The council has informed the
US Department of the Interior (DOI) that many fallacies exist
on synthetic liquids produced from coal. The NPC believes that
the DOI has overstated the benefits from synfuels and
underestimated the costscapital and operatingfor
the proposed synfuels plant.
Ethylene production by
steam pyrolysis of ethane. The petrochemical industry is focused on
ethylenean important raw material. Two sources are
available for ethylene: 1) cracked gases from refining operations, and 2)
pyrolysis of ethane or propane.
Headlines from Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer,
Patents set aside.
Through a consent decree by the US Federal Court, synthetic
rubber (SR) patents held by Standard Oil Co. (New Jersey) have
been made available royalty free to the US industry until six
months after the end of the WWII. Standard Oil agreed to the
decree rather than fight litigation of anti-trust violations in
its relationship with I. G. Farbenindustrie, a German
New SR capacity operational
by 1943. New production capacity of 700,000 tons of
synthetic rubber (SR) should be operational by the end of 1943.
Twenty-one companies are involved in this project11 petroleum companies,
seven chemical companies and four rubber manufacturers. The
petroleum companies will provide feedstocks for the rubber
manufacturers which include: Firestone Tire & Rubber, The
B.F. Goodrich Co., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and the US
Headlines from Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer,
Octane requirements force
cracking expansions. Straight-run
(SR) gasoline has lost its dominance. The new Ethyl Standard of
78 octane, effective March 1, 1932, further decreases demand
for SR gasoline. Refiners must use more cracked stocks to meet
octane limits. Those refiners without cracking facilities and
capability will be left behind.
Increase octane through
reforming units. Research and development investigates
the conversion of heavy naphthas into quality gasoline with
high anti-knock qualities.
Headlines from Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer,
Midwest uses welded pipe in
gasoline line. Forty miles of extra-heavy pipe,
capable of withstanding 1,200 psi, were used to construct a
pipeline joining two natural-gasoline plants in Wyoming. To
reduce the number of joints, the pipe was delivered in 40-ft
lengths. The pipe lengths were welded into 1,700-ft-long
sections and then joined together by a overhead welding
New cracking processes
available. Development of the cracking process over
the past few years has been phenomenal. Refiners are directing
more attention to the new processes. Nine different cracking
processes are available: 1) cracking in stills; 2) cracking in
the liquid phase in tubes under pressure; 3) cracking in the
liquid-vapor phase in tubes under pressure; 4) a combination of
2 and 3 using steam; 5) cracking with a combination of 1-4,
using fixed gases and hydrogen; 6) cracking with any of the
above processes with chemicals; 7) cracking with the aid of
integral heat; 8) cracking in the vapor phase in tubes under
pressure; and 9) cracking by electrical methods.
Operations at Marathon Oil Co.s 200,000-bpd
Garyville, Louisiana, refinery are
and remotely controlled from four control
centers. This main process control
oversees all process operations
It is linked by radio and telephone to other
centers monitoring and controlling the
area, tank farm and water treatment facilities.
Construction continues for the largest catalytic
cracking and gas recovery unit, with 63,000
bpd of crude oil capacity. The cracker was
designed and built by The M.W. Kellogg Co.
for Gulf Oils Philadelphia refinery.
Petroleum Refiner, 1954.
The new 360-ft tall Houdriflow cat
dwarfs the fixed-bed catalytic refining
at Sun Oils Marcus Hook, refinery. The
18,000-bpd Houdriformer will increase the
refinerys capacity to produce
gasoline. Petroleum Refiner, 1955.
The largest Indian oil refinery was built
Bombay by Burmah-Shell Refineries Ltd., at
a cost of £23 million, and it was completed
year ahead of schedule. The refinery is
on Trombay Island, 10 miles northeast of
Bombay. The facility can process 2 million
of crude oil into petrol, kerosine, diesel
fuel oil. Petroleum Refiner, 1955.
Royal Dutch Shells Pernis refinery is the
largest refinery in Europe. It has a
capacity of 15 million tpy of crude oil. The
shows the refinerys catalytic cracking
which primarily produces high-octane
Hydrocarbon Processing and
Refiner, November 1961.
Construction photo of the
unit at Totals Port Arthur, Texas
Hydrocarbon Processing, June 2009.
In the top photo, the Ultraformer at
American Oil Co.s Whiting, Indiana, refinery
is the first catalytic reformer to be controlled
a computer. The 21,000-bpd unit produces
high-octane gasoline. Over 250 scanning
process instruments are used to monitor
process conditions of the reformer. The
below shows the modern control room used
to monitor data from the field instruments.
Hydrocarbon Processing and
The Ludwigshafen site is BASFs
production facility. The site was
146 yeas ago. Over 200 production
are linked together via a 2,000-km
aboveground pipeline network. Hydrocarbon
Processing, April 2009.
The Quaker State Oil Refining Co. operates
two Dubbs stills at the Emlenton,
site. The Refiner, October 1931.