World War II was one of
the defining events that drove innovation for the hydrocarbon
processing industry (HPI). During the 1940s, solutions were
needed to resolve shortages of transportation fuels and a lack
of natural rubber. From WWII, new refining technologies were
developed to process 100-octane fuels. A wave of new refining capacity, funded by the US
government, was constructed. Likewise, synthetic rubber (SR)
manufacturing received a political push to construct new petrochemical capacity to support SR
Yet, the HPI continues its cycle of
overbuilding and flooding the market with too much product
while demand declines from economic downturns. HPI companies
have continued to follow a consistent quest over the last 90
years: to find new markets, to develop new products and uses
for hydrocarbon-based materials, to improve operations, to
increase safe operations, and to reduce operating costs.
Continuous improvement is a
never-ending task for HPI companies, as demonstrated in the
headlines from the past 90 years.
Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, June 2002:
Asian olefins: A new
dawn. The Asian olefins industry has endured two
onerous years. Yet, there is hope. The aftershocks of September
11, 2001, created many challenges. In particular, Asian
economies that are high-tech oriented were more deeply impacted
than others. Taiwan and Hong Kong have entered technical
recessions. For the olefins industry, the largest effect was a
sharp decline in re-export markets for polymer imports to China
and the loss of polymer end-product exports from other Asian
countries. However, a reversal is expected in 2002.
Polyethylene industry set
to recover. The global outlook for the ethylene
industry rests on the polyethylene (PE) market. In North
America, the PE industry has had difficulties in recovering
from the rapid rise in feedstock prices in 2001. The PE
industry remains focused on cost reductions. PE processers are
consolidating, and inefficient capacity is being rationalized.
PE continues to replace traditional packing materials such as
glass, paper and metal. The next wave of PE production capacity
is estimated to begin in 2005.
Australia considers GTL projects. Australia
continues to experience declining crude oil production, while
demand for refined crude-oil based products increases. By
2005/06, it is forecast that this nation will not be
self-sufficient in transportation-fuel production. Australia is
investigating several gas-to-liquids (GTLs) projects to bridge
this gap. The Australian government has formed a task to
evaluate GTL prospects.
Neste Oils Porvoo, Finland, refinery operates
the worlds first stand-alone renewable
plant. Hydrocarbon Processing, February
CITGOs 167,000-bpd refinery
Illinois, can process heavy, sour crude oils.
new 42,500-bpd ultra-low-sulfur
enables this refinery to process
diesel. Hydrocarbon Processing,
Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, June 1992:
recycle facility opened. Union Carbide has opened the
first US full-scale multi-plastics recycling facility. This
plant is capable of recycling 84% of the plastics found in the
average household. In the US, plastics recycling capacity is
925 million lb/yr. If the nation is to meet national targets of
recycling 25% of its plastic waste by 1995, it must increase
recycling capacity by 575 million lb/yrdouble its present
Carbon energy tax proposals
contested in Europe. The European
Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), representing petrochemical
and chemical manufacturers, and Europia, representing regional
refiners, have filed anti-tax protests on proposed carbon
taxes. Both organizations believe that the carbon tax would
destroy the competitiveness of European producers in the global
capacity expanding. Present Asian refining capacity is
13.8 million bpd (MMbpd) with 1.5 MMbpd of new supplies to come
online by 1995. Overbuilding in this region will be quickly
absorbed by new demand growth in the second half of the 1990s.
Growing demand is expected with China accounting for 48% of the
regional energy demand.
Saudi Arabia focuses on
downstream developments outside the Kingdom. By the
late 1990s, Saudi Arabia downstream production is expected to
reach 1.4 MMbpd to 2 MMbpd with a European facility purchase.
privatization of HPI holdings. The
Brazilian government has successfully auctioned a major petrochemical plant located at
Copesul, Brazil, for $805 million. The shares were purchased by
several buyersno group holds a majority position. The
next plan is the breakup of the Petrobras monopoly.
Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, June 1982:
Oil usage declined in OECD
industrialized nations during 1981by 6.3%
compared to 1980. Net oil imports fell 13.4% according to a new
study by the International Energy Agency. Of the 24 OECD
nations, crude oil imports declined 708.3 million metric tons
while oil production by OECD nations remained the same,
approximately 700 million metric tons.
More taxes could threaten
growth of energy industry. Members of the Independent
Petroleum Association of America warn that proposed energy
taxes designed to shrink the US national deficit could trigger
larger future deficits. Income tax rates for oil companies have
increased from 30% for 19531963 to nearly 50% in recent
years. Present US gasoline taxes are 30¢/gallon.
Methanol as a transportation fuel
would be expensive and difficult. According to the
Synthetic Fuels Association, methanol as a motor fuel is slow
to develop due to several reasons: 1) Excess petroleum-based
fuels are available at lower prices than methanol; 2) Methanol is incompatible to the
existing fueling distribution system; and 3) Lack of
infrastructure that is compatible with methanol. Methanol as a
motor fuel is used in token amounts. Coal will be used for
long-term methanol production by the US and several other
countries. Gasoline from methanol could be a future option to
switch from petroleum-based fuels.
Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, June 1972:
possible solution to future energy needs. A $3-million
long-range research project will investigate the potential of
high-power lasers to produce controlled nuclear fusion. Esso
R&E and General Electric will work on the study in
collaboration with the University of Rochester, Rochester, New
New process claims 99.9%
efficiency for sulfur removal. The Alberta Sulphur
Research (ASR) has developed a process that is claimed to
remove sulfur compounds from natural gas streams at more than
99.9% efficiency. The ASR process has only been demonstrated in
the laboratory. It uses an organic sulphoxide as a liquid
catalyst to remove hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide from
converted directly from heavy oils. The
Kellogg-Phillips heavy oil cracking (HOC) process can produce
high-octane gasoline from either atmospheric residuals (ARs) or
vacuum residuals (VRs) without pretreating the heavy feeds.
With the HOC process, refiners can eliminate hydrocracking and
delayed coking of VR streams. The process acts like a fluid
catalytic cracking unit and reacts only the gasoil portion of
the VR. The first unit is operating at the Phillips
Borger, Texas refinery.
Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing and Petroleum
Refiner, June 1962:
South Korea is building its
first refinery. The 30,000-bpd refinery will be
constructed at Ulsan, Korea, with startup planned by
butadiene process unveiled. Shells French
affiliate has developed a new butadiene process that is more
cost-effective. The company is planning to build a 40,000-ton
plant near Marseilles, France. The process uses a
butane-dehydrogenation route to yield butadiene.
News for FCC catalyst
announced. Sinclair has released a catalyst
regeneration process that could reduce refining costs by 50%.
UN sees pressure on
international oil market. The United Nations reported
that slacking demand for commercial energy in Western Europe
and the US during 1961 impacted oil and coal producers the
hardest. Energy consumption via oil and coal has steadily
fallen. Reasons for the slowdown are linked to the leveling off
of industrial production in Western Europe and a lag in the upturn of
the US economy, along with a slow recovery for fuel
New computer control system is installed
B. F. Goodrich Chemical Co.s new
chloride unit at Calvert City, Kentucky.
computer will exercise closed-loop control
the vinyl chloride monomer process.
Refiner, March 1960.
Headlines from Petroleum Refiner, June 1952:
New editor appointed for
the Refiner. Dr. John J.
McKetta, chairman of the chemical engineering department of the
University of Texas, 1949-1951 is leaving his post at the
university to take over the expanded editorial staff of the
Petroleum Refiner. The expanded staff includes editors
to cover process and construction along with several
special assignment editors to cover the industry across the
announced. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. has developed a
new catalytic desulfurization process, called Autofining. The
process can remove sulfur from natural and straight-run
gasolines through naphtha to gasoils. Removed sulfur is
converted to hydrogen sulfide.
Shell completes postwar expansion in UK.
Shells new fluid catalytic cracking unit at the Stanlow
refinery is operational. The $22.4
million project included a new cracker as
well as integration builds for the adjacent
petrochemical facility, which
started operations in July 1949. The expanded Stanlow refinery
has an operating capacity of 3.25 million tpy.
New refinery nearing
completion on Thames River. Vacuum Oil Co.s new
Coryton refinery is forecast to be online in early 1953. The
most difficult part of the site construction is complete. The
refinery will be eight feet below the level of the Thames
River. The refinery will include two crude distillation units, a Thermofor
catalytic cracking unit, a thermal reformer and a motor-spirits
treating unit. The site will also have a lubrication
A 160-feet high and 300-ton crude splitter
being transported to the Shell Refinery at
Stanlow (Cheshire, England). The reactor
moved 27 miles and required a complicated
program to reinforce bridges and minimize
traffic disruptions to move the splitter to
refinery. Petroleum Refiner, June 1952.
New Houdriflow unit constructed at the
Gewerkschaft EroelRaffinerie Emsland
refinery in Lingen, Germany. Petroleum
Headlines from The Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer,
New catalytic cracking
process developed. A new system for catalytic
cracking, called the Thermofor Catalytic Cracking (T.C.C.)
process, is being offered to US refiners to manufacture
high-octane gasoline. The process provides several feed
streamsaromatics (including toluene), butane-butylene
gases for synthetic rubber, and aviation alkylate. The process
uses a continuous, countercurrent moving catalyst bed. A
20,000-bpd unit is under construction at a Texas refinery. The
process is being licensed by the Houdry Process Corp., The
Lummus Co. and E. B. Badger & Sons Co.
New units designed for
rubber production. Humble Oil & Refining Co. and
Phillips Petroleum Co. are working on new capacity to provide
feedstocks for the synthetic rubber
industry at a cost of $400 million. Humble plans to construct
butadiene units for the bunatype rubber industry, as well
as styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR). Construction has begun for the
Neches Butane Production Co. at its Port Neches, Texas,
facility. This is the largest unit announced for the SBR
program with a construction cost of $60 million.
Side view of a thermal cracking unit from
1940s. Refiner and Natural Gasoline
Wide view of the Odessa Butadiene
50,000-tpy butadiene plant nearing
completion. The facility was designed and
constructed by the Fluor Corp. Petroleum
Gulf Refining Co.s new polymerization
produce feed for high-octane gasoline. The
unit is part of Gulf Refinings Cincinnati,
refinery and was part of the $15 million
Refiner, January 1949.
Headlines from The Refiner and Natural Gasoline
Manufacturer, June 1932:
Economists forecast drop in
gasoline demand. A survey conducted by committees from
the American Petroleum Institute and the Federal Oil
Conservation Board shows that gasoline demand will decline by
at least 6% over the next year. Likewise, US gasoline exports
are forecast to decline.
Europe. The USRR,
at Grozni and Baku, is constructing two 10,000-bpd two-stage
atmospheric-vacuum distillation plants and five
6,000-bbl single-stage vacuum distillation unit.
Shell Company of Canada is building a 285,000-bbl storage and
distribution facility at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Plans are
continuing for the construction of refinery in the near
Cities Services Co. plans to
construct a new 3,000-bpd refinery near Toronto, Ontario,
Canada. The facility will also include a cracking unit.
America. The South American Consolidated Oil Co. is
reported to be building a 10,000-bpd refinery in Venezuela.
Imperial Oil Co. is planning a $1
million refinery near Cartagena, Colombia. The project is contingent on tariffs and
restrictions regarding oil imports to the US.
Huasteca Petroleum Co. has started
construction of a new cracking unit
at its Tampico, Mexico, refinery. The unit should be
operational by year end.
Headlines from The Refiner and
Natural Gasoline Manufacturer, February 1924:
Lubricants made from
vegetable and mineral oil. Castor Oil Products of
Houston, Texas, has patented a new process to manufacture
lubricants. In the process, castor oil is distilled to remove
the acid content. The refined castor oil is then blended with
mineral oil under pressure so that the two oils are miscible.
The new lubrication was field tested in an automobile, which
was driven several hundred miles.
manufacturers look for better year in 1924. In 1923,
natural gasoline manufacturers struggled with low gasoline
demand, lower prices for natural gasoline and a glut of product
on the market. Crude oil refiners, likewise, increased
processing and supplies to the market. All of the conditions
have depressed prices, while demand flattened at the same time.
A better year is anticipated as crude oil production declined
over the second half of 1923. Thus, excess supplies should
disappear, and demand for natural gasoline is more optimistic.