January 2018

Outlook: Industry Leaders’ Viewpoints

2018 Industry Leaders’ Viewpoints

To kick off the new year, industry leaders and esteemed colleagues shared their viewpoints on 2018 and beyond with Hydrocarbon Processing. These viewpoints offer insight into growing regions of activity, technological advances, and how the downstream industry can innovate in 2018 and into the future.

Nichols, Lee, Hydrocarbon Processing Staff

To kick off the new year, industry leaders and esteemed colleagues shared their viewpoints on 2018 and beyond with Hydrocarbon Processing. These viewpoints offer insight into growing regions of activity, technological advances, and how the downstream industry can innovate in 2018 and into the future.

The hydrocarbon processing industry (HPI) has witnessed the development of major trends that are affecting the global market. Along with continued refining capacity growth, new technologies are moving the industry toward clean, low-sulfur transportation fuels. To adhere to government regulations, refiners around the world will be required to continue investing heavily in producing low-sulfur transportation fuels. This trend includes the production of low-sulfur marine fuels to adhere to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) Global Sulfur Cap regulation.

The global petrochemical sector will continue to see strong growth through the end of the decade. The most significant capacity expansions will occur in the Asia-Pacific, US and Middle East regions. Some of the strongest growth is seen in the US, where cheap natural gas is fueling more than $100 B in new petrochemical capacity.

Over the past several years, new gas processing/LNG capacity has surged in nearly every region. Millions of tons of new LNG import and export capacity have come onstream, with hundreds of millions of tons still under development.

The following insights will show the present state of the downstream oil and gas industry, as well as where the industry is heading and how we will get there. The continued pursuit of plant efficiency, process optimization, safety and satisfying global demand for petroleum products will be met with the latest technological advances. The following viewpoints provide a deeper look into these issues, along with the opportunities and challenges that exist.

RAHUL IYER

Executive Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development, Siluria Technologies, San Francisco, California

Embracing technological disruption in the hydrocarbon industry

The hydrocarbon value chain is no stranger to technological innovation. From the beginning, exploration and production were built on the premise that today’s technological advances will enable the discovery of more gas and oil, and help bring it to the market tomorrow.

The story unfolds in a long string of pioneering innovations dating back to the first oil wells in Baku in 1848, to directional drilling in 1929, to hydraulic fracturing in 1949, to measurement while drilling in 1978, and to the most recent breakthroughs giving rise to a previously unimaginable natural gas surplus in the US.

The pace with which the US went from planning for LNG imports to natural gas abundance surprised the world and, in some ways, surprised the industry itself. In spite of a wealth of production data and accessible knowledge of how dramatically geology, technology and business practices were combining to create this megatrend, many participants in the value chain waited for a consensus to form prior to taking action. Midstream gas processors, power utilities, coal companies and petrochemical operators acted on commodity price signals, but it took time to understand that a structural shift was occurring.

Disruption of “business as usual”

Natural gas prices collapsed to around $2/MMBtu 2 yr ago, surprising many analysts who believed that $5/MMBtu was required to sustain production. Although individual producers had a rapidly developing understanding of how costs are dynamic (not static), the broader industry and value chain did not understand this reality. This effect is a natural consequence of a vast and regionalized industry comprising a fragmented hydrocarbon value chain—one that often allows participants to operate with a limited perspective of their businesses’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Upstream and midstream companies have been adopting innovative technologies and business practices, slashing production costs and creating greater operational flexibility. At the same time, technological innovations and other forces continue to drive electrical efficiency upward, and the costs of alternatives like renewables sharply downward. These later trends helped contribute to a collapse in LNG prices, dashing the belief that LNG could be a virtually endless outlet for surplus US natural gas supply.

Today, the value of natural gas in the US is almost entirely predicated on the value of electricity. Earlier this year, solar and wind energy crossed an important milestone as the cheapest available sources of electricity in the US, Germany, Australia, Italy and Spain. At present, utility-scale solar beats coal in the US on a “new vs. new” basis, and is poised to beat combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power in the next decade, based on a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance study. Solar already beats CCGT in China and India, and this is likely to be true vs. coal in China within the next 3 yr, based on the same analysis.

Continued advancements in energy storage are poised to address the well-understood dispatchability and availability weaknesses associated with both solar and wind. Renewables dominate incremental power generation growth across the hydrocarbon value chain on a global basis.

In a world where major industries are routinely disrupted by technological innovation, a reactive perspective informed largely by commodity price signals simply will not suffice. Globally minded, full-value-chain awareness is critical if the hydrocarbon industry is to proactively adapt and sustainably thrive.

Renewable energies: Opportunity or threat?

Multiple trends are brewing in the marketplace that could be addressed as either threats or opportunities. The rapid growth of renewables in the market presents a credible threat to natural gas in power markets. However, variability in solar and wind production and the impact of grid stability offer gas-fueled CCGT baseload generation a valuable competitive advantage over other baseload generation, including coal and nuclear.

Studies of experiences with grid stability in the US (Texas and California) and Germany reveal the operational and economic advantages associated with expanding CCGT capacity. Today, downstream utilities are generally tasked with managing these issues. Upstream producers and midstream processors are often forced to respond strictly to price signals, rather than participate in strategic planning and value capture.

Another emerging example is the electric vehicle (EV) market. EV power demand represented just 6 TWh of electricity demand in 2016, but some market estimates show EV demand for electricity representing as much as 5% of total power demand by 2040. While this may seem like a small number, the peakiness of this demand could represent a high-value opportunity where natural gas-fueled open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) have a strong competitive advantage.

In the present market structure, downstream utilities, EV owners and EV charging network operators capture the substantial operational savings that EVs provide over gasoline or diesel fuel on a per-mile basis. While this growth market would be impossible without natural gas producers and processors, these companies have been almost entirely left out of this growth opportunity.

Opportunities for upstream and midstream

It is well understood that natural gas is a cleaner fuel that enjoys advantages over coal and other hydrocarbons. Many areas of opportunity exist for upstream and midstream players to impact their ability to create and capture value along the chain. One of these areas is advanced distributed power generation technologies like natural gas-fed solid oxide fuel cell systems, which are being paired with renewables to provide base-load power, backup power and even high-value grid-stabilization solutions.

Another major area of opportunity for producers and processors lies outside of the energy industry. Until recently, only refined products like naphtha, and processed products like ethane and propane, had been considered viable feedstocks for the commodity chemicals industry. The feedstock requirements, massive scale and location of chemical plants have largely prevented upstream producers and midstream players from entering these markets. However, the world’s largest oil companies are now making investments in crude-to-chemicals projects, strategically turning toward higher-value manufacturing and away from increasingly competitive energy markets.

Even more disruptive are planned investments in gas-to-chemicals and breakthrough technologies that convert natural gas and other methane-containing gases to ethylene and/or propylene. These new process technologies can add value to existing processes (steam cracking, refining, propane dehydrogenation, crude-to-chemicals, etc.) by converting methane-containing streams and/or raw natural gas to high-value hydrocarbons, rather than burning them as low-value fuel.

Innovation and market disruption are not new, but the pace of innovation and its impacts on markets continue to accelerate. Now more than ever, participants in the hydrocarbon value chain can thrive by embracing a more comprehensive view of energy and petrochemical markets and new technologies that enable value-creating growth strategies.

ALAN GELDER

Vice President, Research EMEARC Refining and Chemicals, Wood Mackenzie, London, UK

Refining outlook for 2018: Key signposts for an evolving market environment

Refining margins have been healthy since the crude oil price collapse of late 2014. The European and Asian refining industries enjoyed record margins in 2015, with 2016 being distinctly average (e.g., European refining margins in 2016 were approximately what the sector has witnessed over the past 20 yr). As US crude can now be exported, North American refining margins did not repeat the heights of 2012. However, US Gulf Coast (USGC) margins were comparable to those of the Golden Age of Refining that occurred more than a decade ago. The refiners that remained operational during Hurricane Harvey witnessed better refining margins in 2017 compared to 2016. What do the fundamentals suggest for 2018?

Demand growth

The strong growth of the global economy is supporting oil demand growth of 1.4 MMbpd. Oil demand growth in 2018 is broadly balanced, with gasoline and diesel/gasoil demand growth being similar (FIG. 1). This demand is quite different when compared to demand in 2015 and 2016. Within those two years, demand growth was skewed toward gasoline, which set global refining runs and resulted in high middle distillate inventories. The 2018 balanced global perspective masks key regional differences. As we believe that US gasoline demand peaked in 2017, our forecasts show that gasoline demand will decline in both the US and Europe in 2018. Hence, gasoline demand growth will continue to be in the emerging economies in Asia and the Middle East. Therefore, global gasoline inventories will not be so tight, with the overhang of middle distillate inventories expected to shrink.

FIG. 1. Global oil demand change by product.
FIG. 1. Global oil demand change by product.

We forecast naphtha demand to decline globally in 2018, as the naphtha-based petrochemical sector lowers utilization to accommodate the US ethane-based steam cracker investment wave coming online during 2018. Distillate demand growth reflects a normal winter and a recovery in manufacturing activity, notably in China.

Supply response and margin outlook

Although oil demand growth is projected to grow strongly, we are projecting US tight oil supply growth to exceed 1 MMbpd in 2018. This results in the oil market being unable to accommodate a return of OPEC and non-OPEC barrels without significantly weakening oil prices. Therefore, our outlook is that OPEC’s production cuts are extended and the price of Brent crude in 2018 is similar, if not a little weaker, than in 2017. This scenario results in crude differentials in 2018 being similar to those in 2017 and fuel oil discounts to crude remaining narrow. It also results in US crude exports growing significantly, with Midland light/sweet barrels being exported to both European and Asian markets. We expect competition between these markets to be fierce, so US crude export flows will fluctuate reflecting seasonality and freight rates.

As shown in FIG. 2, refinery capacity additions have slowed since the collapse in oil prices. This has led to the refining system being tightened, which, in turn, leads to stronger margins. However, refining margins in 2017 were boosted by refinery outages along the USGC from Hurricane Harvey. While refining margins are expected to be strong in 2018, we project annual average levels to be lower than in 2017.

FIG. 2. Global crude distillation unit changes.
FIG. 2. Global crude distillation unit changes.

Key uncertainties and signposts to watch

The oil and refining landscape remains highly uncertain, with many aspects to watch (in addition to the usual uncertainties of economic growth, weather events and unplanned outages), such as:

  • The stability of Libya and Nigeria in terms of crude exports
  • Venezuelan supplies—If Venezuela defaults on its bond payments, its supply of heavy oil could decline swiftly (by 300 Mbpd–400 Mbpd), as it would be unable to import diluent to continue heavy oil supplies. This scenario could trigger a change in refinery ownership, with future implications for the Atlantic Basin refining market.
  • China’s export quotas for 2018, as crude import quotas have increased significantly over 2017 levels. The import quota increase is greater than the anticipated growth in demand. This imbalance between supply and demand would result in an increase in exports, which would adversely impact Asian refining margins.
  • International Maritime Organization (IMO) developments. At present, there has been limited response by both the shipping and refining sectors to the IMO’s major legislative change on sulfur requirements in maritime transportation fuels. Ongoing work by the IMO could provide greater certainty that will support the investments required for this change and limit disruptions.
  • China’s refining and chemical project announcements. As our long-term outlook suggests, the pace of capacity additions needs to be lower than historical levels to avoid the reemergence of a global capacity surplus. 

REBECCA LIEBERT

President and CEO, Honeywell UOP, Des Plaines, Illinois

What is the future of oil and gas?

Since our technologies are resident on all but a handful of the world’s 700 refineries, our company is in a unique position to evaluate trends in the oil and gas industry. We speak with refiners, petrochemical manufacturers and natural gas processors, often years before they make an investment decision. Based on their observations and concerns—and their read of trends in the industry—we determine what research to fund, and which technologies to develop.

As we enter 2018, conditions in the industry have entered a new phase. In the global refining sector, there is an accelerating move toward tighter transportation fuel specifications that specify cleaner-burning fuels with greater energy content. These specifications are rapidly converging to a common standard, such as those equivalent to Euro 5-type fuels. At the same time, new standards for maritime fuels will largely eliminate the market for heavy, high-sulfur-content bunker fuel.

These two trends threaten to strand millions of barrels of refining capacity at refineries that cannot meet the new standards. The solution lies largely in new or adapted refining technologies that use new, advanced catalysts and processes.

Petrochemicals face a different but equally urgent problem. Demand for petrochemicals is growing at three times the rate of transportation fuels. This demand growth is being driven by consumption growth in developing economies. Meanwhile, investments to expand petrochemicals production capacity are highly cyclical, leading to enormous price volatility—even though the average return on investment can exceed those of producing transportation fuels.

To satisfy this demand, petrochemical manufacturers are trying to integrate upstream into chemical feedstocks, while refiners are trying to move downstream into petrochemicals. This is creating a large number of new entrants into the markets for paraxylene and olefins, compounding uncertainty and price volatility.

In the refining and petrochemicals sectors, economies of scale are driving interest in enormous new complexes.

Natural gas will be abundant and inexpensive for many years. With the expansion of the LNG sector, natural gas can affordably go anywhere in the world, bringing it closer than ever to a single benchmark price, adjusted for transportation. The lower prices and portability mean that only the most attractive global gas processing plants will get built. We will also see greater demand for more efficient gas processing solutions, including a direct route from methane to olefins (i.e., gas to plastics).

Several factors will affect how these trends play out. With stricter regulatory requirements all over the world, there will be a greater demand for refining, petrochemical manufacturing and gas processing packages with a smaller environmental footprint. New reuse mandates mean that operators will have to go beyond regulatory compliance and achieve resource recovery. As the world turns more toward electrical energy from solar and wind, more effective solutions will be needed for energy storage so we can transfer energy from periods of peak supply to periods of peak demand.

At present, the industry has a new kind of customer that is not a seasoned refiner or chemical manufacturer, but an entrepreneur. To this customer, speed and scope matter, and they will rely heavily on a trusted advisor. We expect that more efficient gasoline-powered vehicles, and rising penetration of electric vehicles, will reduce gasoline demand, but we cannot be sure when or by how much.

There is also a global trend toward greater domestic content in manufacturing, where equipment and catalysts are produced locally.

We will see a faster march toward the convergence of traditional oil and gas technologies and big data analytics. For Honeywell, this convergence combines process technology and software-enabled services. In fact, the next wave of revolutions in oil and gas technology will be based on technological capabilities enabled by digitization.

This digitization trend goes far beyond automating existing processes. Cloud-based solutions will allow us to apply a century’s worth of chemical reactions and operating data into a platform that monitors and informs plant operations on a continuous basis. This operation allows the user to see upcoming issues, avoid downtime and make better decisions as process economics change. We believe that any company that is not using a connected plant solution in the next 5 yr will be at a serious competitive disadvantage.

When we look at the operations of a refinery, petrochemical or gas processing plant, we often think of the productivity of the plant in terms of the physical assets at work—the process units, the catalysts and energy usage. However, the lifeblood of any of these operations is the people who run them. And behind them is an army of service technicians who advise, troubleshoot and help direct repairs and maintenance.

Service is a substantial cost of doing business, and the model on which it has been run is overdue for a change. For generations, the value of service was spotlighted when a customer encountered some kind of crisis. As production faltered—or stopped entirely—a contingent of service personnel would immediately travel to the plant. In addition to the opportunity cost of lost production, the customer was paying for expert advice—and often, emergency supplies, equipment and repair services.

Around the world, service relationships are moving quickly toward total lifecycle management. Automobiles come with service plans. Aircraft and other heavy equipment are serviced on this basis, and IT systems are managed under service contracts. In the oil and gas industry, customers would rather pay to maintain or improve an operation, rather than just to fix it when it goes wrong. This allows them to budget more reliably for service throughout the entire lifecycle of the technology, and to pay for that service on an outcome-achievement basis.

This operation will shift the risk and the reward to the service provider, who becomes a partner to the customer, with a vested interest in the successful operation of the plant. It is an outcome-based method of service delivery that focuses the service provider on improving the operation and reliability of the plant, and on preventing disruptions that lead to slowdowns or shutdowns. In addition, service providers will be able to provide services that they previously have been unable to provide, but that have a new and far more compelling economic value to the customer. This shifts the paradigm from cost-plus service delivery to a value-priced, outcome-based system. Customers will pay for this higher level of service on an ongoing basis, as it is more cost-effective for them in the long run. They will do this for the same reasons that other industries use product lifecycle management: Early detection, prevention, system optimization, operational reliability and safety.

This is a level and system of service delivery that has not existed before, and much of it rests on IIoT- and software-enabled services. This is the direction in which the industry is moving.

ALBERTO MATUCCI

Vice President, Refinery and Petrochemicals, Turbomachinery and Process Solutions, Baker Hughes, a GE company, Florence, Italy

Increasing efficiency and continuing the digital drive

The world witnessed much change in 2017. As we look at 2018, we are certain that there will be more exciting change within the oil and gas industry, including the refinery and petrochemical segment, most of which will focus on inventions and advancements that create smarter and more efficient ways to bring energy to the world.

We are aware that this continues to be a challenging time for the industry; therefore, maximizing economic recovery and minimizing risk remain top priorities. This requires a commitment from all players—operators, service companies, technology providers—to work together. We can also feel a cautious optimism across the entire industry and believe that this sustained low-commodity price environment is an opportunity for creating profound change and transforming the way we operate. One thing I am certain about is that the need for innovation and technological growth will remain at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Over the past several years, we have seen an unparalleled push for new technological developments across the entire oil and gas industry. Customers are searching for smarter and more efficient solutions that will increase productivity, which is a trend that will surely continue in 2018.

The present environment has forced us to focus on what is critical: optimizing solutions for both equipment and services. For example, there is a strong focus in the LNG industry for technology that provides greater levels of efficiency, reduces non-productive time by optimizing maintenance schedules and lowers the total cost of ownership. That is the reason we launched the LM9000 gas turbine in 2017. It provides 40% lower NOx emissions, a 50% longer maintenance interval, 20% more power and a compact footprint that requires 25% fewer trains compared to other standard aeroderivative solutions. The result is a 20% reduction in the total cost of ownership for LNG operators, and it can also be utilized for simple-cycle, cogeneration and combined-cycle power generation. This is a great example of the flexibility the industry is seeking, and we continue to invest in providing the most innovative technology to customers in all segments we serve.

At the same time, we have seen another trend continuing to grow in this search for increased efficiency and productivity: digitalization. Both operators and service companies agree that digitalization is the future of the industry and key to achieving increases in growth and productivity. The Industrial Internet has changed the way our industry, including turbomachinery, operates. Operators are under pressure to minimize costs and maximize productivity, while ensuring equipment meets the most stringent safety and reliability standards. As a result, I believe we are going to see continued interest in digital solutions as the proven benefits of these solutions are already too great to ignore. By implementing new digital technology, such as remote monitoring of equipment and wireless sensors, users can prevent a problem like erosion before it happens. These preventive actions help lower costs and cut down unplanned downtime.

Big data will continue to play a critical role in operations, and this shift in how our industry uses information will continue throughout 2018 and the years ahead. We can access large volumes of data, and we can also analyze it in a way that we could not in the past. With cloud-based applications, such as our Asset Performance Management (APM) solution, we can provide an in-depth understanding of each unique asset over time—combining sensor data with analytics, models and material science—to provide a detailed and evolving picture of machine operations. It is a disruptive technology that provides operators with insights that allow them to effectively plan maintenance.

APM is just one of a suite of predictive services that use advanced analytics to improve performance. The year ahead will see an increased emphasis on predictive and maintenance services, as these systems answer critical questions on the history and present operations of an asset, while offering actions that should be taken to improve performance, reduce risk and ensure operational safety and efficiency. By predicting and preventing failures, we can make assets not only more productive, but also safer. We have witnessed the vast benefits of these systems when working with our own customers, and we firmly believe that predictive software will be a key part of any successful operator’s business in 2018 and beyond. We estimate that only 3%–5% of oil and gas equipment is “connected.” Therefore, the potential for growth is significant.

However, the opportunities for predictive software do not stop there. An even more advanced way to oversee asset maintenance is by using digital twins—a disruptive technology that is set to revolutionize operations for our sector. Artificial intelligence is used to build digital replicas of an operator’s physical assets that can interact with humans, helping them to better manage the physical version’s performance. Bridging the gap between digital and physical offers a highly detailed understanding of the asset over time. By taking data and analytics and bringing them together with the physical (i.e., models and knowledge of materials), we can create a detailed and constantly evolving idea of how the machine is actually operating in the real world. The digital twin can predict how the machine will interact with the process equipment, anticipating criticalities that may arise during the startup phase and fundamentally enabling a “virtual” commissioning that will dramatically shorten cycles and increase returns. When the machine is in operation, the digital twin is always seeing, thinking and doing, with the ability to continuously learn and improve. This unrivalled insight allows users to significantly improve efficiencies and allows for more informed decision-making.

Our industry has embraced a number of ground-breaking technological developments, and there will certainly be more to come as the benefits become tested, proven and more tangible. As we look to 2018, we expect further development, as well as close collaboration between service companies and customers to provide tailored solutions that offer reliability, flexibility, efficiency and productivity. The benefits of investing in digital are clear; this is why we are gearing up to become the ultimate digital industrial partner for our customers in 2018 and beyond.

AJAY BADHWAR

Global Strategic Market Manager, Dow Oil, Gas and Mining, Houston, Texas

Meeting sulfur removal challenges in the refining and gas processing industries

As the incremental rise in fuel consumption continues worldwide, the global refining and gas processing industries face the challenges of tighter air emissions and fuel regulations, combined with the added challenge of increasing sulfur content in crude oil and feedstocks. In particular, air emissions regulations require much deeper (or total) sulfur removal.

To meet these intensified emissions and clean fuel standards, operators believe that substantial capital investment is required, or they will be forced to acquire low-sulfur, high-gravity crude oil. The industry continues to invest in new refineries, upgrades, retrofits and expansions to reduce sulfur levels in the resulting process gas streams.

How can the challenges of deeper sulfur removal and flare reduction requirements be met with the limited capital resources at hand?

Increasing capacity of operations

As capital investment and timelines tighten, there has been a noticeable shift toward enhancing the efficiency of existing operations before new infrastructure is installed. With the aim of maximizing hydrocarbon output and minimizing sulfur content, enabling technologies have become a critical component in the decision-making process. Solutions are available that not only help reduce and remove sulfur content, but also play a key role in the production of high-quality finished refinery products.

Solvents are required to remove sulfur from gas streams, and they are differentiated to meet contaminant removal parameters. As industry standards tighten, advanced, high-performance solvents can be applied to existing refineries to help improve performance, as well as to remove more sulfur from the same operation unit. Often, if a refinery needs to increase production or reach deeper treating, the refinery will need to use more of their valuable energy. Modern solvents are available to increase capacity without increasing the absolute amount of consumed energy. For example, as part of a performance improvement project, Dow assisted a refinery in converting from methyl diethanolamine (MDEA) to UCARSOL solvents. The change increased the treating capacity by 48%, reduced energy consumption by 350 BBtu/yr and reduced the solvent makeup by 34%. This was achieved without investing any capital and reduced the yearly cost of operation by roughly $0.8 MM.

With international emissions standards at play, it is no longer sufficient simply to remove hydrogen sulfide (H2S) from gas streams. Refinery gas or natural gas that is high in H2S is often high in organic sulfur, such as mercaptans. Mercaptans are difficult to remove using conventional solvent systems due to their partial acid gas nature and partial organic nature—they require a specialized technology or a combination of technologies. In response, Dow has developed hybrid solvents—a combination of chemical and physical solvents capable of removing organic sulfur compounds from gas streams. Hybrid solvents reduce hydrocarbon uptake and meet gas specifications for acid gas removal. These solvents can be applied at natural gas plants and refineries, and have other potential oil and gas industry applications. These solvents have been used in the industry for more than 20 yr, but they continue to evolve.

Minimizing inefficiencies in the system and capturing valuable resources

In regions like the Middle East and Caspian basin, infrastructure is being built to obtain more fuel from production to market to meet increasing demand. However, with the development of infrastructure comes inefficiencies, especially during the period when assets are put online and before takeaway capacity has been established. For example, flaring may be common as a temporary or routine measure due to a lack of pipelines and capacity. Recovering, rather than flaring, natural gas resources from oil and gas production can help capture energy resources that can be used to support a country’s economic growth.

Increasing the flexibility of systems can help reduce inefficiencies by expanding an operation window, which is the ability for a piece of equipment to operate at both a lower and higher rate than previously possible, and the ability to handle fuels with a wide degree of contamination. In the past, natural gas liquids (NGL) capture was a complicated and expensive process that required a very low-temperature refrigeration unit to separate the liquid products from the gas stream. These separation technologies required significant capital investment and had a substantial operating cost penalty, including for utilities and people needed in the field. At present, UCARSORB NGL adsorbents help enable the capture of valuable NGL from streams, allowing operators the opportunity to generate income from the captured NGL. This technology selectively recovers NGL being targeted for the operator, and minimizes the less-desired removal of water, CO2 and lighter NGL. Since this NGL recovery process requires minimal operator intervention, capital and operating expenses are substantially lower compared to previous recovery techniques. Typically, these systems can be quickly deployed and are relatively portable. The resulting gas can then be used to generate electricity in available generators, creating another valuable sales product. Recovering NGL and using the gas with a generating engine can effectively eliminate the need for flaring.

Improving refining and gas processing operations in the face of low-sulfur regulations goes beyond pure chemistry. It requires expertise, coupled with analysis, simulation and testing capabilities. Historically available technologies can save cost; however, capitalizing on more modern, recent technological developments, such as formulated amines, hybrid solvents and novel adsorbent systems, can solve an operator’s specific challenges and lead to significantly lower capital and operating costs.

From startup through the various lifecycles of a project, technology, innovation and experience can help streamline the continuity of refinery and gas processing operations, help minimize capital and operating expenditures and meet tightening emissions and fuel regulations. HP

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