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

The journey through the last 90 years as chronicled by the headlines of Hydrocarbon Processing has been a unique experience. As in any quest, the high points are too quickly followed by downturns. Some downturns have soft landings; others were not so soft, such as the years following the crashes of 1929, 1982 and, of course, 2008.

The hydrocarbon processing industry (HPI) is an immense network of complex refineries, petrochemical plants and natural gas processing facilities. When we think about the HPI, visions of reactors, distillation columns, pipe racks, compressors, pumps and other major equipment quickly come to mind. Yet, it is the people of the HPI that truly bring the imagination, vision, tenacity and knowledge to make these physical assets yield high-value products that shape and sustain modern society.

In our final Insight, we salute the professionals and operators who have toiled to create this industry and to preserve its place in history and in the global economy. Without the strength and conviction of the early industry pioneers, the modern HPI would not exist. In addition, we also look forward to new professions that will guide the next 90 years, as waves of technology and innovation occur at even faster rates.

Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, December 2002:

GTL: myth or reality. Gas-to-liquid (GTL) has become the most talked about petroleum process. However, this technology fails to materialize on a massive scale. Industry pundits believe GTL has a future and are predicting a takeoff in projects. The problem is related to too many hurdles within process design and the rising cost of natural gas.

US plastic-film demand to increase 2.6%/yr to 14.6 billion pounds in 2006. Film advances will be driven by cost and performance advantages, as well as technology and processing improvements. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) will remain the dominant polymer; significant opportunities are expected for polypropylene and high-density PE. Consumption of LDPE film, the major film type, is expected to reach 8.7 billion pounds in 2006, with growing demand linked to shrink wrap for snack foods and retail bags.

Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, December 1992:

Refiners having problems worldwide. Shrinking margins, flat demand, environmental regulations, compliance costs, plant modifications and more are challenging profitability for refiners on a global basis. Only a modest 1% increase for oil demand is forecasted. Most demand growth will by North America; likewise, demand declines in the former USSR and Europe will be partially offset by growth in Asia-Pacific countries.

Western Europe’s chemical industry struggles. Europe has changed from a net ethylene exporter to an importer. Recovery in margins is slowly occurring. However, step-by-step recovery requires cooperative agreements between petrochemical producers to lower capacities.

Oxygenated fuel demand likely to increase. Demand for methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and other oxygenates are forecast to increase from 196,000 bpd in 1993 to 764,000 bpd by 1997. Nearly 62 billion gallons (Bgal) of reformulated gasoline (RFG) will be sold in nonattainment areas beginning in 1995; RFG volumes could increase to 70 Bgal by 2000. Nine major metropolitan areas and 11 states will require RFG to reduce ozone–forming emissions. However, RFG demand is forecast to grow due to “opt-in” actions by regions and states not required by US federal law to use the cleaner gasoline. By 1997, over 70% of the US gasoline sold will contain oxygenates.

Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, December 1982:

1983 outlook for the US refining industry. Demand for energy will increase by 1% to 15.5 million bpd (MMbpd); thus compensating slightly for the 600,000 bpd decline in 1982. Demand for gasoline and residual will decline slightly, while diesel and jet fuel will have modest demand increases in 1983. Oil imports will increase 0.4 MMbpd in 1983 to average 5.4 MMbpd. Natural gas consumption will maintain its level after posting a decline in 1982.

Butylenes are the feedstock of the’80s. A new study forecasts that butylenes are emerging as an important feedstock. Concerns over butylene supplies are formulating as more HPI companies reduce steam-cracking operations. New demand for isobutylene-rich mixed butylene streams with fuel and petrochemical derivatives, especially MTBE production, is tightening the market. The phase-out of lead in gasoline and butane-1 demand is responsible for growing butylene interest.

Plastics in construction to increase 7%. Demand for plastics in new construction is forecast to increase 7%/yr and continue through the mid-1990s. By 1995, plastic usage in construction will reach nearly 16 billion pounds. Much of the new demand for plastic will be in piping and fittings as polymers replace metal pipe and fittings. Other new applications include insulation materials for new construction and flooring.

Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing, December 1972:

Refining lobby increases environmental research funding. In 1973, the American Petroleum Institute will spend $2.65 million in addition to the $2.225 million that has been already earmarked for research. Most of the funding will be directed at air pollution and oil-spill studies.

US oil consumption outpaced domestic supply during the first 10 months of 1972. The daily demand for oil products from January through October averaged 15.8 MMbpd, 6% over demand from 1971. Conversely, domestic oil production decreased 1.1% to 9 MMbpd over the same 1972 period.

US imports of refined products and crude oil to increase. Imports of crude oil and petroleum products increased by 18% for the first 10 months of 1972; this is an 11% increase over 1971 levels.

Largest fluid-bed incinerator in operation. The world’s largest smokeless fluid-bed incinerator is operating at American Oil’s refinery in Whiting, Indiana. The incinerator will burn liquid wastes generated by the refinery. The unit will handle 316 tons of sludges and 56 tons of spent caustic, thus mitigating environmental discharges for the refinery.

  Hydrocarbon Processing, 1971.

Headlines from Hydrocarbon Processing and Petroleum Refiner, December 1962:

More shutdowns in forecast. Smaller HPI facilities find it increasing difficult to compete against “mass production” plants. In October, four Standard of Ohio refineries closed along with an asphalt unit. Olin Mathieson shut down its 6,000-tpy ammonia plant located at Niagara Falls, New York; it was the US’ first ammonia facility and in operation for 37 years. The shutdowns alert other HPI companies to gear up and become more profitable.

Sprayable urethane announced. Goodyear Tire & Rubber announces the latest innovation—rubber-like sprayable urethane. The product is sprayed like paint and then vulcanizes to form a rubbery, pliable solid. The product is being used on aircraft fuel containers.

Switzerland’s first refinery planned. A new refinery is under development for Switzerland. The refinery will process crude oil for eni.

First petrochemical facility planned for Algeria. A five-member group from the US, France and Algeria will construct Algeria’s first petrochemical facility at an estimated cost of $30 million. Butadiene is the primary product.

International Synthetic Rubber will construct Great Britain’s first polybutadiene plant. The facility will be located at Grangemouth, Scotland, on a 20-ac tract provided by British Hydrocarbon Chemicals Co, Ltd. The $5.6-million facility will produce 10,000 tpy of polybutadiene.

  Hydrocarbon Processing and Petroleum

  Hydrocarbon Processing and Petroleum

  Hydrocarbon Processing, 1966.

Headlines from Petroleum Refiner, December 1952:

Standard Oil Co. of Ohio has approved the installation of a 12,000-bpd Platforming unit at the Lima, Ohio refinery. The new unit is designed to increase high-octane gasoline production and much needed aviation gasoline. Universal Oil Products Co. is designing the unit. Construction will begin by May 1953 with completion within one year.

New project to build largest refinery in Australia announced. When completed, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.’s latest refinery at Kwinana, Australia, will be the largest oil refinery for the continent. This refinery will supply 40% of the region’s oil requirements. The $112-million refinery will have an estimated capacity of 150,000 bpd and process 60,000 bpd of crude oil from the Middle East. The refinery should be online by 1955.

Mid-Continent refiners expanding and modernizing. Several revamp projects are underway for the mid-continent refiners:

Wilcox Oil Co. has completed construction of Platforming unit at its Bristow refinery in Oklahoma. The unit is capable of processing 1,500 bpd of high-octane gasoline.

Phillips Petroleum Co. is expanding the Okmulgee, Oklahoma, refinery. New construction includes catalytic polymerization and catalytic cracking units. With the new construction complete, refining capacity will increase by 50%.

Continental Oil Co. has a $7.5 million expansion project underway at the Ponca City, Oklahoma site. The project includes a lubrication oil additives unit, new power plant and advanced refining equipment.

Tide Water Associated Oil Co. is installing a two-stage crude oil distillation unit. The project has been delayed due to a shortage of steel supplies; construction work should begin in spring of 1953. 

  Petroleum Refiner, 1950.

  Petroleum Refiner, 1953.

  Petroleum Refiner, 1956.

Headlines from Petroleum Refiner, December 1942:

Phillips Petroleum announces new synthetic process. A new catalytic refining process called Isoversion has been developed by Phillips Petroleum Co. Due to military secrecy, few details are available on the 100-octane aviation gasoline process. The new process uses previously considered low-value or no-value petroleum streams and converts them to high-octane fuels.

Petroleum coke under restrictions. To prevent non-essential use of petroleum coke in foreign countries, the War Production Board has issued an order that restricts coke movement. Coke shortages are impacting aluminum production.

US refinery being shipped to Russia. The refining plant of the Douglass Oil & Refining Co, located at Los Angeles, California, is being dismantled and shipped to Russia as part of a lead-lease program. The 10,000 bpd unit is a new unit.

Standard test for tetraethyl lead approved. A standard test for tetraethyl lead in gasoline was approved by the American Standards Association. The standard was developed under the guidance of the American Society for Testing Materials. The approved method converts tetraethyl lead to lead chloride by refluxing with HCl. The lead content is determined by volumetrically by titration. 

  Petroleum Refiner, 1944.

  Petroleum Refiner, 1949.

  Petroleum Refiner, 1949.

Headlines from The Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer, December 1932:

Newest refinery constructed in Germany. The most modern petroleum refinery in Germany is the Gewerkschaft Elwerath at Misburg, Hanover. The refinery began operations in the spring of 1932 with a rated capacity of 560,000 bbl/yr to 700,000 bbl/yr. The facility has a 2,600-bpd distillation unit, cracking facilities and auxiliary support works. It is the first German installation equipped with the Dubbs cracking units. Germany has 35 refineries; 10 are located in Hanover providence.

Monarch Refining Co. announced plans to construct a small refinery, cracking plant and marine terminal at Long Beach, California. Total cost for the project is estimated at $500,000.

Standard Oil Co. of California announced plans to invest $3 million to improve its West Coast refineries.

Headlines from The Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer, July 1923:

Four Dubbs units ordered for Oklahoma refinery. The Santa Fe Oil and Refining Co (formerly the Chickasaw Refining Co.) has ordered four Dubbs process stills for the Ardmore, Oklahoma refinery. The project cost is estimated at $300,000. In addition to the new stills, the Santa Fe plant will be completely overhauled.

Dutch Shell plans to use silica-gel process. Royal Dutch-Shell has a contract with Davison Chemical Co. to use their silica-gel process for refining crude oil. The contract allows Dutch Shell to use the patented process at all of its refineries.

New Canadian refinery to be online soon. Imperial Oil Co., Ltd.’s 3,500-bbl refinery at Calgary is expected to be operation by early September. The $2-million refinery will process Montana crude oil.

New refinery breaks ground. Preliminary work has begun on the new refinery east of Casper, Wyoming. White Eagle Oil and Refining Co. is constructing the new 2,000-bbl refinery, and it will operate on Salt Creek crude. HP

  The Refiner and Natural Gasoline