HPInsight: The global HPI's top January headlines from 1922 through 2012

(Editor's note: The HPInsight article posted below is included in the January 2012 print edition of Hydrocarbon Processing.)

Global HPI: 90+ years old and still going strong

In 2012, Hydrocarbon Processing (HP) will celebrate its 90th anniversary as a publication for the professionals involved in the daily activities of the global hydrocarbon processing industry (HPI). Much has changed since the first edition of The Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer—the forerunner of HP—in September 1922. And, yet, so many factors continue to remain the same. This early publication was designed by its founders to serve the HPI. In the first issue, the publisher, Ray L. Dudley wrote, “The Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer will bring to its readers. . . new data on refinery methods, written by men who are in a position to write with authority.”

In our 90th year of service to the global HPI, HP’s same mission statement and goals still stand. Our feature editorial content continues to be authored by professional men and women actively working in the HPI. Going forward in 2012, our mission will be to provide data on new methods for the global refining and transportation fuels manufacturing industries. In addition, our focus includes the new HPI sectors that grew over the past 90 years. Of course, this includes the massive petrochemical and the natural gas/liquefied natural gas (LNG) industries. Both segments grew from the newly discovered innovations and in response to changing demands by the HPI and society.

The beginning. When did the modern HPI actual begin? There are several dates, depending on which part of the HPI that you focus on. In the case of crude oil and natural gas, the beginning goes back to the mid-1800s. In that century, technology and opportunity were linking up. Crude oil had been around for years, but it had no real value until innovative inventors discovered how to pull the middle fraction (kerosine) from crude oil. At the same time, the “bottom-of-the-barrel” was distilled and stabilized with sulfur to produce asphalt. With asphalt, cities could top-pave streets to handle the newest transportation form—the automobile. Quick note: In the late 1890s in the US, there were more electric automobiles (EVs) than gasoline powered vehicles. EVs developed by Thomas Edison initially outnumbered the internal-combustion engine units.

Mobilization of society. Cost was a factor in owning a private car at that time. Early automobiles were very expensive, and only the truly wealthy could afford such a luxury. And then a clever solution arose to meet society’s needs. In this case, a bright, young engineer working for and mentored by Thomas Edison, Henry Ford had his own vision for personal transportation. This keenly bright engineer later discovered the modern assembly line to mass produce his gasoline-powered vehicle. The ability to mass produce quality vehicles dramatically cut entry ownership costs. And soon, more people were more mobile, and commerce grew with an increasingly easy flow of goods, materials and manpower to further build manufacturing capacity and capability.

Revolutionary changes. Hydrocarbon-based energy (crude oil, coal and natural gas) is the lubricant that drives domestic and global economies. Hydrocarbons will remain the primary energy sources for the next 35 years.

History has shaped the HPI. Likewise, the HPI has changed the course of history for the global economy. “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Change is a constant part of the HPI. Hard work and innovation often supply the solutions to the rising needs of society. The modern HPI grew out from the constant demands by the modern societies of the 1900s, and it still continues as developing nations improve the standard of living for their citizens.

In 2012, HP will look back and share from our archives many of the major breakthroughs in processing technologies along with catalyst, equipment, instrumentation, analytical and automation developments that have revolutionized the global HPI.

HPI headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, January 2002:

China gains official entry into World Trade Organization (WTO). On Dec. 11, 2001, China became the WTO’s 143rd member. As a result, China has agreed to open and liberalize its regime, offering a more predictable environment for trade and foreign investment. In 2000, China was the world’s seventh leading exporter and eighth largest importer of merchandise trade. For commercial services, China was the 12th leading exporter and 10th largest importer, according to the WTO.

Natural gas supplies in US are up; pricing continue downward trend. The Department of Energy analysis of the natural gas (NG) market indicates that prices should continue to decline through next year and that supplies are to increase. NG prices are expected to decline from $4.09/thousand cubic feet (Mcf) in 2001 to $1.96/Mcf in 2002, while supplies should increase from 22.45 Tcf in 2001 to 23.53 Tcf in 2002. Mild weather, additional drilling and a slowing economy have reduced NG consumption.

Study ‘sorts through’ oxygenate issues. Whatever environmental benefits the oxygenate requirement in the US had in the early 1990s, they have since “weaken considerably” as a more decisive role is played by improved auto emissions technology. Over the past two driving seasons supply problems, especially for reformulated gasoline (RFG), have had major impact on prices. MTBE and ethanol are the most widely used oxygenates. Together they make up 5% of the gasoline barrel, with MTBE volumes nearly three times those of ethanol.

HPI headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, January 1992:

The European Energy Charter is signed in The Netherlands by 40 nations including the US, Japan, European Community member countries and the USSR’s successor, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Parties agree to keep their energy accessible to foreign investment and to encourage technology transfer to states that don’t have current equipment and knowledge.

OPEC will export 25.5 million bpd of crude in first-quarter 1992, the International Energy Agency forecasts. Production is now at 25 MMbpd and is expected to remain the same for a few months. A diplomatic stalemate in the Iraq/UN negotiations continues, along with instability in the Commonwealth of Independent States. World oil markets could maintain their strength through the first quarter. It is uncertain whether OPEC can maintain its $21/bbl target price in the second quarter.

Very tough gasoline reformulation standards are on the way for California. Cited as the toughest in the world, the California regs will greatly alter eight motor gasoline chemical and physical parameters: Rvp, oxygenates, aromatics, olefins, sulfur, benzene and two distillation ranges. Regs will take effect by March 1, 1996. Total estimated capital outlay by California refiners is $2 billion to $5 billion.

HPI headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, January 1982:

Energy independence for US is within reach, says Houston oilman, George Mitchell. “Within 10 to 15 years, the US can be 90% energy self sufficient,” says Mitchell who focuses on the “underestimated” oil/gas reserves—especially gas, which, in tight formations alone, may hit 500 Tcf.

Energy R&D and demonstration urgently needed according to new IEA report. The International Energy Agency’s latest study calls for more R&D to develop new technology choices to deliver more energy in the 1990s. Vulnerability of national economies to oil price increases, supply cutoffs, unsteady foreign exchange rates, inflation and unemployment are having impacts on R&D investments in IEA countries.

HPI headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, January 1972:

API will spend $5 million on research on pollution in ’72. Nearly $2.5 million previously allocated will be added to the new appropriation of $2.6 million. The API says about 80% of the money will be spent on oil-spill and automotive-emission aspects.

Worldwide plastics boom seen continuing. All market signs show 1971 to be a record-breaking year for the US plastics industry. In 1970, US plastics production reached 18.7 billion lb. Major markets for plastic include construction, packaging, transportation, appliance and furniture industries. During the past decade, plastics experienced a 300% production increase with a 30% annual average increase. Global plastic (exclusive of Communist Asia) increased from 17.3 billion lb in 1960/1962 to 58.4 billion lb in 1969 and is projected to reach 220 billion lb by 1980. Increasing global gross national product support this growth along with new and broader dissemination of plastic technologies.

US had about as many engineering grads in 1971 as in 1970. Just over 43,000 bachelor’s degrees were awarded in 1971. Of these, 8,966 were MEs, and 3,626 were ChEs.

US refining capacity up 4% in 1971. Daily operating capacity of US refineries, as of Sept. 30, 1971, has risen to 13.1 million bpd, an increase of 529, 944 bpd. West Coast refineries increased capacity by 53,091 bpd and East Coast refineries increased capacity by 72,800 bpd. Texas Gulf Coast refineries increased thruput by 284,915 bpd, and the Louisiana Gulf Coast increased capacity by 149, 200 bpd.

Toray Industries Inc. has completed a xylene isomerization system at the Kawasaki, Japan, plant. The unit uses the Toray’s Isolene process and brings the firm’s total paraxylene production capacity to 90,000 tpy.

Punjab State Industries Development Corp., Ltd., will construct a polyester fiber plant near Chandigarh, India. The ethylene glycol process is licensed by Inventa AG. Initial capacity of the facility will be 6,600 metric tpy of polyester chips and staple fibers. Inventa will handle the engineering.

HPI headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing and Petroleum Refiner, January 1962:

Name change for Ohio Oil in making. Stockholders will vote on name change at the company’s 75th meeting. Ohio Oil spokesman says change was recommended to “better reflect company’s increasing domestic and international activities.” The new company name is Marathon Oil.

US owns 55.3% of global refining capacity according to a new report by the Britain Petroleum Information Bureau. The British and Dutch have 15.4%, while the rest of the world operates 29.3%. At end of 1960, US daily runs were 58 million metric tons (MM metric tons) in Western Europe, 32 MM metric tons in Middle East, 1 MM metric ton in Africa, 82.8 4 MM metric ton in Latin America, 20 MM metric ton in the Far East and Australasia, and 492 MM metric ton in Canada and US.

Russian oil industry ups ante for gasoline, gasoil and heavy fuel oil by $2/ton in new contracts with Belgian, Dutch and West German importers. Demand for Russian products exceeds available supplies for export.

First Detrol plant onstream. The first commercial Detrol unit—catalytic hydrodealkylation of toluene to high-purity benzene process—was built for Crown Central.

Latest on phthalic anhydride. The fluid-bed phthalic anhydride process is making big news. Badger Manufacturing and Sherwin Williams say petroleum naphthalene capacity will reach 650 million lb/yr, and this capacity is gated for phthalic anhydride production. An estimated cost for a 40-million lb/yr plant using petroleum naphthalene is $3.6 million.

Petrochemicals 1962: High production and lower profits? Recovering from the 1960 slump, petrochemicals show signs of increased production with firming prices. The anticipated rise in petrochemical production has been achieved at the expense of price cuts and decreasing profit margins at the end of 1960.

HPI headlines from Petroleum Refiner, January 1952:

$28.5 million refinery built by Shell in Provence. The Shell Oil Co. has constructed a new refinery in Provence, France, which is the largest and most versatile and will make France self-sufficient in carburants and liquefied gas. It is the first refinery in Europe capable of supplying all basic need in these fuels. The refinery at Berre-L’Etang will cost $28.8 million, and it has a capacity of 3 million tpy.

Contract for new phenol plant. Standard Oil Co. has awarded a construction contract for a phenol unit at the Richmond, California refinery to Stone and Webster Corp. It will be the first phenol unit constructed in the West and will cost approximately $4 million. Completion is expected at the end of 1953. The new facility will use a recently developed synthesis process in which neither sulfuric acid nor chlorine will be needed.

Standard-Vacuum to build $35 million Bombay refinery. A construction contract for Standard-Vacuum Oil Co.’s new 25,000-bpd oil refinery in Bombay has been awarded to Lummus Co. Engineers are now in Bombay to complete survey work for construction.

Rotterdam refinery to get 50% capacity boost. The capacity for the Bataafsche Petroleum Co.’s Pernis, Holland, refinery is to be expanded to approximately 180,000 bpd from 120,000 bpd. A fourth distillation unit is under construction and will have a daily capacity of 73,000 bpd. Plans include enlarging Bataafsche’s asphalt and lubrication oil branches.

Refinery expansions are reported to exceed 1951. Capital outlay by refineries this year (1952) is likely to be at least 30% above 1951 levels, according to a report from the Commerce Department’s Office of Business Economics. The Bureau said the over-all average for manufacturing companies would be 15% above last year and that industries such as metals, rubber, petroleum refining and iron and steel would lead the way with increases above 30%.

HPI headlines from Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer, January 1942:

Isomerization process growing in importance. Standard Oil Co has recently completed development for a naphtha isomerization process and is ready to license for use by American refiners. The new process handles not only naphtha mixtures, but it can be used on pure hydrocarbon fractions such as butane. This process is an important tool for aviation fuel production.

Canadian gasoline rationing to begin in April. Gasoline rationing to begin April 1 in Canada, and, after that date, ration coupons must be used with every gasoline purchase. Munitions Minister Howe announced that the desired curtailment will be achieved through nonessential private-car driving. Commercial vehicles will not be affected.

Defense efforts push oil to record levels during 1941. Demand for petroleum products in 1941 was the greatest in the 80-year history of the industry—nearly 1.6 billion bbl or 10% above 1940 levels. To meet national defense emergencies, the petroleum industry has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in 1941 for new refining equipment, new pipelines and new tanker ships, as well as for regular capital investment.

Oil demand to rise further unless War interferes. Although US demand for petroleum for domestic use and export rose sharply in 1941 to a new record high, it is indicated that requirements will be materially larger in 1942, as the country proceeds with unprecedented civilian activity and worldwide military action. Fuel oils assume greater importance than normal, as War requires heavy use by the Navy, Army, merchant ships, railroads, electric power plants, mines, smelters and factories.

HPI headlines from Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer, September 1932:

Refining in 1932. The refining industry will process less crude in 1932. At the same time, the total yield of gasoline is increasing through the use of additional cracking facilities. Because of constant technical improvements in cracking and the severity of service for older, obsolete technologies, cracking vapor and liquid phases have become important. In 1931, there were 825 shell still-type cracking units operating; they are old and inefficient units. About 1/3 of these units have been dismantled. Replacing old equipment with modern cracking facilities will involve constructing 35 to 40 cracking units, with a processing capacity of 300 bbl. Asphalt manufacturing is also undergoing changes to improve the product and product economics. The vacuum-flash coil is used by many asphalt manufacturers and is the most important development in this field.

New gasoline recovery and stabilization plant operating. To improve antiknock properties, Continental Oil Co. installed technology to stabilize pressure on distillate at its Ponca City, Oklahoma, and Baltimore, Maryland, refineries. The process reduces propane content and removes 10% to 15% of the light ends. The process consists of a bubble tower, reflux condenser and reflux drum. The stabilizer provides a means to achieve the desired volatility of the produced light gasoline.

Hydrogenation in Germany. The large nitrogen works at the Leuna Works has been converted to produce hydrogen for hydrogenation processes to meet Germany’s growing demand for benzine. Two technical steps are distinguished in the hydrogenation process: 1) production of middle oils from heavy oils or coal or tar in the liquid phase, and 2) “benzination” of the middle oils in the gas phase. Under hydrogenation, the feed is decomposed into benzene, middle oil and heavy oil. Under pressure (200 atmospheres), the mixture is mixed with hydrogen at process temperatures with a catalyst.

US gasoline market is over supplied. Despite an increase in volume sold in the US, the petroleum industry is unable to obtain fair profits. Over supplies have kept pricing down. Total consumption of gasoline reached 454 million bbl, while total production plus imports amounted to 470 million bbl. While refiners processed less crude in 1931, gasoline yields increased such that excess supplies were created.

HPI headlines from Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer, September 1922:

Moore plant installs Dubbs system stills. The Moore Refining Co., in Arkansas City, Kansas, is installing four Dubbs cracking stills, each with 500 bbl of capacity.

“Reichskraftoff” is the new German motor fuel. Reichskraftoff is reported to give very good results and is composed of 50% motor benzol, 25% tetralin and 25% alcohol. The mixture is a compromise, as tetralin, although it provides high caloric power, is unsuitable by itself. Mixing tetralin with motor benzol in equal parts provides good results for the engine; however, the density of the mixture is undesirable. Blending 25% alcohol with 25% tetralin balances the heating power of the tetralin.

British operate model refinery. The new National Refineries Ltd. plant at Llandarcy, in South Wales, is remotely located 6,000 mi from the crude oil production sources—a new change. The new facility will produce gasoline for British motorists. The facility will produce motor and aviation spirits, gasoil, lubricating oils, grease and several paraffin waxes suitable for candle making. Construction began in February 1919 with completion in three years. Total capital investment was $15 million. The refinery generates its own electricity.

Improved methods for making carbon black. New developments in carbon-black making will decrease construction costs for the facilities. Current carbon-black manufacturing processes burn natural gas with a luminous flame against a metal surface and then collect the liberated soot. In the new process, control of the air supply is more efficient. The new plants are designed to minimize effects from weather conditions, especially wind. The process produces 0.5 lb to 2 lb per 1,000 cf of natural gas consumed.  HP

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