Around the world, legislation mandating decreased emissions and lower levels of airborne pollutants is coming into effect. In response, refiners are implementing operational and processing changes to reduce sulfur levels in transportation fuels.
To comply with mandatory sulfur specifications for gasoline and diesel between 2013 and 2016, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia plans to spend billions of dollars to construct multiple clean-fuel projects. Saudi Arabia has adopted European standards for fuel quality, as Europe has been the frontrunner on regulations for low-sulfur, clean transportation fuels.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to reduce sulfur content in diesel and gasoline to 10 parts per million (ppm) and to lower benzene content in gasoline to 1%. With these new fuel specifications, Saudi Arabian refining operations will comply with international standards. This will represent a dramatic reduction in sulfur levels from June 2012, when Saudi Arabias maximum sulfur level for diesel was greater than 500 ppm (Fig. 1). The planned upgrades and revamps are necessary to meet future market demand for higher-value, lower-sulfur transportation fuels.
Fig. 1. Global status of maximum allowable sulfur in diesel fuel,
parts per million (June 2012).
Along with its joint ventures (JVs), Saudi Arabian national oil company Saudi Aramco will upgrade all of the Kingdoms domestic refineries to produce lower-sulfur transportation fuels. Several projectsthe Ras Tanura Refinery Clean Fuels and Aromatics project, the Riyadh Refinery Clean Transportation Fuel project, the Saudi Aramco Mobil Refinery Co. (SAMREF) Clean Fuels project and the PetroRabigh Clean Fuels projectare designed to accomplish the kingdoms goal of producing near-zero-sulfur fuels by 2016.
Ras Tanura Refinery Clean Fuel and Aromatics project
The Ras Tanura refinery is Saudi Aramcos most complex refinery. Located on the Arabian Gulf, Ras Tanura has a crude distillation capacity of 550 thousand barrels per day (Mbpd), a 305-Mbpd natural gas liquids (NGLs) processing facility, a 960-Mbpd crude oil stabilization facility and 75 crude oil storage tanks with a combined capacity of 5.8 million barrels (MMbbl). Most of Ras Tanuras production is slated for domestic use.
The $3 billion (B) project is scheduled for completion in 2016. The projects main goals are to produce cleaner fuels and to increase production of paraxylene, benzene and toluene. Annual production capacity could reach 1 million tons per year (MMtpy) of aromatics.
In May 2011, Jacobs Engineerings Middle Eastern unit, Jacobs, Zumal and Turbag Consulting Engineers (Jacobs ZATE) was awarded the front-end engineering and design (FEED) contract under Saudi Aramcos General Engineering and Project Management Services (GES+) contract. Jacobs acquired ZATE in 2008 to fulfill Saudi Aramcos GES+ initiative. The GES+ initiative is designed to increase local content in Saudi Arabia for engineering services such as FEED, feasibility studies, procurement and project management services.
Jacobs will be responsible for FEED services for both inside and outside battery limits. These services include modifications to the refinery to comply with future environmental regulations and to increase diversity of petrochemical products. FEED should be completed in early 2013, with calls to tender for multiple engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts scheduled for the second quarter of 2013.
Riyadh Refinery Clean Transportation Fuel project
Located in the central region of Saudi Arabia, the 124-Mbpd Riyadh refinery is supplied with crude oil from the East-West pipeline. In April 2011, Foster Wheeler and A. Al-Saihati, A. Fattani & O. Al-Othman Consulting Engineering Co. (SOFCON) were awarded the FEED and project management consultancy (PMC) services contracts for this project.
The $1 B upgrade project is designed to reduce sulfur content in diesel from 330 ppm to 10 ppm and to also decrease benzene levels in gasoline. It is the first brownfield project of this magnitude to be awarded by Saudi Aramco. The project scope includes:
- Four new processing unitsisomerization, naphtha splitting, sulfur guard-bed and diesel hydrotreating
- Two debottlenecking operations on the hydrocracker and gas concentration units
- Replacement of the crude and vacuum distillation tower internals.
Submission of bids for the EPC contract ended in October 2012. Saudi Aramco expects to award the EPC contract in early 2013 to Daelim Industrial, JGC Corp., Saipem or Samsung Engineering.
SAMREF is an equally owned JV between Saudi Aramco and ExxonMobils wholly owned subsidiary, Mobil Yanbu Refining Co. Located on the coast of the Red Sea, SAMREFs Yanbu refinery is the worlds largest single-train refinery. This site processes 400 Mbpd of crude oil into fuels, of which half is consumed domestically.
SAMREFs Yanbu refinery will undergo significant modifications to produce cleaner fuels by reducing sulfur levels by more than 98% in gasoline by 2013, and in diesel by 2016. The execution will be split into two phases. Phase 1 will begin during a 45-day maintenance shutdown in March 2013. A grassroots desulfurization train to treat 60 Mbpd of fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) gasoline will be installed. A revamp of the 98-Mbpd distillate hydrotreater and refinery utilities infrastructure will also begin. WorleyParsons is responsible for FEED and EPC of the facilities.
Phase 2 is scheduled to start up by the end of 2015. The scope includes a new high-pressure distillate hydrotreater, a hydrogen manufacturing unit, a sulfur recovery unit, and offsites and utilities infrastructure. The $2.5 B project is scheduled for completion in 2016.
PetroRabigh Clean Fuels project
Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical Co., or PetroRabigh, is an equally owned JV between Saudi Aramco and Sumitomo Chemical Co. of Japan. Located on Saudi Arabias west coast, the PetroRabigh complex is one of the largest integrated refining and petrochemical complexes in the world. With a capacity of 400 Mbpd, it is also designed to produce a total of 2.4 MMt of petrochemical solids and liquids.
To meet international environmental standards, the $1 B clean-fuels project is designed to reduce sulfur content in gasoline from 300 ppm to 10 ppm. At present, the FEED contract is in the bidding phase, with seven companies vying for the contract. The scope of the FEED contract includes designing the facilities, setting specifications for equipment required, evaluating potential licensors, adjusting capital expenditures and operating costs, and estimating labor and time frames for the EPC phase.
Saudi Arabia is not the only Middle Eastern country with clean-fuels projects. Kuwaits national oil company, Kuwait National Petroleum Co. (KNPC), is investing $31 B in a project to modernize the countrys Mina Abdullah and Mina Al-Ahmadi refineries, as well as to increase total crude oil throughput to 800 Mbpd.
KNPC will construct and revamp several units in both refineries to process environmentally friendly fuels with significantly lower sulfur content. Major units to be added include atmospheric residue desulfurization units, isomerization units, sulfur recovery units, amine regeneration units, vacuum rerun units, delayed coker units and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) treating units.
In mid-December 2012, Foster Wheeler was awarded a PMC services contract valued at $500 MM. Foster Wheeler will be responsible for all PMC services during the tendering phase of the main EPC contracts, along with management of the EPC contractors through completion of performance testing. EPC contracts are expected to be awarded in the second quarter of 2013. Overall completion of the project is set for 2018.
On the other side of the world, Lake Charles Clean Energy (LCCE), a subsidiary of Leucadia Energy, is investing $2.5 B in a state-of-the-art plant that will use advanced gasification technology to cleanly manufacture industrial products from petroleum coke. The LCCE project, located at the Port of Lake Charles, Louisiana, US, will provide clean fuels for the states domestic petrochemical industry and use carbon-capture technologies to enhance domestic oil production. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2013.
Turner Industries Group is the constructor for the project, and KBR will provide design, engineering and procurement services. LCCE will acquire petcoke from Koch Carbon amounting to 7,000 metric tons of petcoke per day from US Gulf Coast refiners. LCCE will extract the beneficial energy from petcoke while avoiding harmful emissions and producing no waste.
In addition to limiting emissions, this plant is designed to capture, compress and sell 90% of its CO2 production. The 4.5 MMtpy of captured CO2 will be sold for use in enhanced oil recovery operations along the US Gulf Coast. LCCE is expected to be one of the worlds lowest-cost producers of methanol and hydrogen, as well as a low-cost producer of other products used in the chemical and refining industries. The LCCE project will be the first of its kind in the US.
Whether it is lowering sulfur content in transportation fuels or using gasification to manufacture cleaner fuels, refiners around the world are utilizing new technologies to create cleaner petroleum products for consumers. HP
Lee Nichols is director of Gulf Publishing Companys Data Division. He has five years of experience in the downstream industry and is responsible for market research and trends analysis for the global downstream construction sector. At present, he manages all data content and sales for Hydrocarbon Processing Construction Boxscore Database, as well as all corporate and global site licenses to World Oil and Hydrocarbon Processing.