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HP Brief

07.01.2012  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords: [SMR] [Air Liquide] [Gunvor] [Germany] [Petroplus] [hydrogen] [refinery closure] [Shell Clyde refinery] [Australia]

Air Liquide starts up SMR in La Porte, Texas

Air Liquide recently celebrated the formal startup of a new steam methane reformer (SMR) in La Porte, Texas. The 120 million scfd of gaseous hydrogen (H2) produced by the SMR will feed into the company’s pipeline system along the Texas Gulf Coast, including the recently built, 85-mile pipeline expansion to supply refineries in Port Arthur, Texas. The H2 will be used to convert heavy crude oil into clean-burning transportation fuels and petrochemical feedstocks.

In addition to the benefits of H2 in manufacturing cleaner gasoline, the gas increasingly is being used with fuel cells for transit buses and forklift trucks for materials handling. In April, Air Liquide announced a demonstration project for an H2-powered fuel-cell transit bus in Birmingham, Alabama. In January 2012, the company began supplying H2 to a fleet of 37 H2-powered fuel-cell forklifts at a leading soft drink maker’s bottling and distribution facility in California.

Gunvor has signed a purchase agreement to acquire Petroplus’ refinery in Ingolstadt, Germany, and related marketing activities. Gunvor said it intends to restart operations as soon as possible. That follows the refinery’s closure in early February as a result of Petroplus’ ongoing financial woes. The company said the Ingolstadt refinery has a “strong regional footprint” in Germany’s prosperous Bavaria region. It has a processing capacity of approximately 100,000 bpd. Gunvor said it is committed to operating the refinery on a long-term basis, and the more than 400 existing employees will be retained. Earlier this year, Gunvor also acquired the Petroplus refinery in Antwerp, Belgium.

Honeywell’s UOP has been selected by Haldor Topsøe to provide technology to purify hydrogen from a steam reforming unit to be installed at the Antipinsky refinery in Tyumen, Russia. The UOP pressure swing adsorption system will recover and purify hydrogen to help the refinery meet increasing demand for clean transportation fuels, such as diesel and gasoline, the companies said. The new hydrogen unit, which is scheduled to startup in 2013, is part of the refinery’s plan to increase its capacity for crude oil processing by as much as 7 MM tpy. It will also enable the production of fuel products that meet the European Union’s Euro-5 emissions standards aimed at reducing emissions from light-duty vehicles.

Shell has confirmed that refining operations at its 79,000-bpd Clyde refinery in Australia will cease on September 30. This follows an announcement in July 2011 that the refinery would be converted into a dedicated fuel terminal. According to Shell Australia Downstream Vice President Andrew Smith, “The initial decision to close and convert Clyde, taken in July last year, was consistent with Shell’s strategy to focus its refining portfolio on larger assets and to build a profitable downstream business here in Australia. Since the decision was taken, the refinery has continued to struggle against sustained poor industry margins and intense competition from mega-refineries in Asia.”

A ceremony was recently held at the Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, to celebrate the completion of a five-year expansion project that more than doubled crude processing capacity to 600,000 bpd, making the Motiva refinery the largest in the US. With more than 14,000 employees working on the project at peak construction and more than 300 new permanent jobs, the expansion bolstered Motiva’s position as an employer and as a leading revenue source for the city, county and local public schools, the company said. The regional economic impact of the project has been estimated in excess of $17 billion. The expanded refinery can process a wide variety of crude oils, ranging from relatively light to heavy. It also has the flexibility to switch between producing primarily gasoline and diesel to adapt to varying market conditions.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued standards informed by input from stakeholders, including industry, for new flares and process heaters at petroleum refineries. The final rule, which responds to petitions requesting the agency to reconsider standards issued in 2008, provides industry with greater compliance flexibility than did earlier standards, and it ensures that companies can make routine operational changes without triggering new requirements. These updates are expected to save the refining industry approximately $80 million per year. These reductions will also provide up to $610 million in annual health benefits. The standards will reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs react in the air to form fine particle pollution and ground-level ozone. While the revised standards do not address greenhouse gas emissions, they will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 2 million tpy as a co-benefit.

ExxonMobil said that it will expand the size of its campus under construction in Houston to accommodate additional employees from the immediate area and from company locations in Fairfax, Virginia, and Akron, Ohio. The affected units include ExxonMobil Refining and Supply in Fairfax, which had played host to the business unit for some time. Mobil was based in Fairfax prior to its 1999 merger with Exxon. Other companies involved are ExxonMobil Research and Engineering; ExxonMobil Fuels, Lubricants and Specialties Marketing; the Akron-based employees of ExxonMobil Chemical; and select positions from ExxonMobil Research and Engineering and ExxonMobil Chemical now located at the Baytown, Texas, refinery complex. The new campus is located on a 385-acre wooded site on company-owned land north of Houston. It will accommodate approximately 10,000 employees. Construction began in 2011, and full occupancy for employees is expected by 2015.

Neste Oil’s refinery in Naantali, Finland, is back to normal operation following the completion of a scheduled major maintenance turnaround. The turnaround began in April and lasted about six weeks. During the turnaround, approximately 2,000 pieces of equipment were overhauled, and replacements were made for various process furnaces and other equipment. The cost of the turnaround and related investment projects amounted to €60 million. Approximately 1,000 people took part in the turnaround, 700 of which were contracted employees.

Brenntag has acquired Petrolube, the exclusive distributor of Infineum specialty fuel and oil additives based in Milan, Italy. For financial year 2012, the Italian company expects an EBITDA of about €800,000. The acquisition follows Brenntag’s November 2011 purchase of Multisol Group, a specialist in the distribution of lubricant additives and base oils in Europe and Africa.  HP

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Gustavo Heins

Good for Bavaria area - Germany, to restart Ingolstadt refinery

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