2021 AFPM Annual Meeting Virtual Edition: Building on a 50-year legacy

MEGAN KUBACKI, Senior Offering Manager, Honeywell UOP’s Process Technologies; MEAGAN LEWIS, Senior Business Leader, UOP’s Lifecycle Solutions and Technologies; and MIKE MCBRIDE, Solution Development Lead, UOP.

 

The last year has been like no other in memory, particularly for the oil and gas industry. Global oil demand dropped 9% in the space of a single month and economic activity slowed dramatically as people reflected on how they spend their time and utilize resources. The industry increased its exploration of petrochemicals and other more environmentally friendly sources of energy.

At the same time, this January marked a noteworthy milestone: the 50th anniversary of CCR (Continuous Catalyst Regeneration) Platforming™ technology, which transformed the refining industry by making the elimination of leaded gasoline—the main source of smog and air pollutants—economically practical.

The introduction of CCR Platforming technology made it profitable for refiners to upgrade naphtha feedstocks into higher octane gasoline blending components and, eventually, the petrochemical feedstocks used for common plastic resins, films and fibers. While the industry commemorates 50 years of CCR Platforming (FIG. 1), we also look to the future of this technology. This includes steps toward new innovations, highlighting potential revamps or reload offerings to improve existing assets for current and emerging markets, and other business models to produce aromatics.

FIG. 1. Honeywell UOP has licensed more than 380 CCR Platforming units since the first was commissioned on January 3, 1971.

 

Revamps and reloads. To maintain critical operations, refiners are looking for ways to improve their CCR Platforming units, increase reliability and meet environmental regulations. One way to improve a CCR Platforming unit is to replace old scallops with UOP CatMax internals (FIG. 2), providing up to ten times greater mechanical strength compared to conventional D-shaped scallops. This also allows up to 10% more active catalyst volume in the same reactor shell. The active catalyst volume can be used to increase capacity, reduce reactor inlet temperatures, increase C5+ yield or increase octane, depending on the unit’s specific needs.

FIG. 2. UOP CatMax internals provide up to ten times greater mechanical strength compared to conventional D-shaped scallops.

Another potential revamp option is to install UOP’s Chlorsorb system. This is an effluent treating technology that recovers chlorides from vent gas streams that are high in chloride concentration and recycles the chlorides back to the process itself. Spent catalyst is used as the chloride adsorbent. The system is caustic-free and there is no byproduct spent caustic for disposal.

Chlorsorb can be implemented in the CCR regenerator section in two ways: for recovery of chlorides from the reduction zone vent gas, and for recovery of chlorides from the regenerator vent gas. The first decreases the amount of chloride that leaves the Platforming unit in the product streams, thereby decreasing consumption of adsorbent material in net gas chloride treaters. The second decreases the amount of chloride vented from the CCR regeneration section, thereby eliminating the need for caustic scrubbing.

The regenerator vent gas Chlorsorb system is commercially proven to remove more than 99% of the chlorides in the regeneration vent gas. This meets the chloride reduction efficiencies set in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation, “NESHAP for petroleum refineries: Catalytic cracking units, catalytic reforming units and Sulfur recovery units,” dated February 2005.

Besides updating equipment with new innovations, new catalyst is always a way to boost performance in a unit. Throughout the years, each new catalyst innovation has outperformed the last with increases in stability, increases in yields or maximizing throughput. CCR Platforming catalyst development began years before the 1971 startup, using the same concepts of the traditional fixed-bed reforming chemistry. The early years of CCR Platforming catalyst development used the single-metal, Pt catalyst, which was not optimized to the innovation of today’s catalyst portfolios.

For example, in the early 2000s, a higher-density, higher-activity catalyst helped refiners and petrochemical producers debottleneck units by maximizing capacity, unloading their fired heaters and improving onstream efficiency. Today, more than half of the CCR reload market uses these catalysts. UOP developed solutions for higher yields for gasoline, or higher activity and capacity for aromatics. Earlier this year, UOP announced its RMY-7 catalyst and Naphtha Performance solutions to maximize yield, coupled with an innovative approach to service support to sustain better performance and more profit. Similarly, the new R-400 series catalyst raises standards for yield, activity, stability and robustness.

Petrochemical integration. Refiners are rethinking the traditional models of converting crude oil into transportation fuels, driven by peak gasoline demand on the horizon, slowing diesel demand and stricter fuel standards. Petrochemical production continues to experience strong demand growth, without the evolving specifications of transportation fuels. Many refiners are pursuing lower cost routes away from gasoline and distillates toward higher-margin petrochemicals that are growing in demand, such as aromatics and propylene.

Refiners with CCR reformers are finding that they are well positioned for relatively minor revamps that transition from fuels mode into aromatics mode. This enables extraction of benzene and mixed xylenes from reformate while still accommodating production of gasoline from the remaining reformate.

FIG. 3 illustrates how refiners with CCR Platforming units can make the transition from gasoline to aromatics modes and add a low-cost aromatics recovery unit (ARU) to recover benzene and mixed xylenes. Producing on-spec gasoline is still possible from the remaining streams without major modifications to any other units.

FIG. 3. CCR Platforming units enable refiners to make the transition from gasoline to aromatics modes.

Depending on which models best meet market demand, the peak year for gasoline demand has likely moved forward several years, and is several million barrels per day lower than projections before the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the petrochemical industry is not slowing down. CCR Platforming is essential to both industries and UOP expects to lead innovation in this technology for years to come.

 

About the authors:

MEGAN KUBACKI is the Senior Offering Manager for Platforming in Honeywell UOP’s Process Technologies business. She has been with the company for eight years and previously held roles in product management, technical sales, project engineering and mechanical design at UOP. Kubacki earned her BS degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

 

MEAGAN LEWIS is the Senior Business Leader for naphtha offerings in UOP’s Lifecycle Solutions and Technologies business. During her 13-year career, she has held roles in business management in petrochemicals and refining. In addition, she is a leader in Honeywell’s Women’s Employee Network. Lewis earned her BS degree in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and her MBA from Loyola University Chicago.

 

MIKE MCBRIDE is a Solution Development Lead for the Integrated Project Solutions team at UOP. He provides optimized solutions for complex refinery and petrochemical projects and has more than 30 years of experience in the petroleum industry, with expertise in project development, configuration planning, optimization and strategy. Prior to re-joining UOP in 2019, McBride served as a consultant on strategic initiatives and early project development activities.

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