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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Individual Technology)

Publication date:4Q 2016
Item#: B1011


Interest in XTL (biomass- and/or gas-to-liquids) technology continues to grow worldwide as energy demand increases, driven by non-OECD nations. New fuel sources will be needed as light sweet crude deposits continue to dwindle around the world. Heavier "opportunity crudes" are available, but these reserves are more expensive to upgrade due to higher contaminant levels, equating to more processing capacity and intensity being needed to transform them into high-quality transportation fuels. Also, with pending GHG emissions regulations being put in place by numerous countries and regions, these opportunity crudes are coming under scrutiny in terms of environmental impact. A number of areas (i.e., the state of California) are implementing low carbon fuel standards which may result in penalties for processing high carbon intensity crude oils in refineries.

Biomass- and gas-to-liquids processes are able to yield high-quality products (e.g., middle distillates, naphtha) with improved properties (higher cetane number, improved pour point, lower sulfur content) when compared to petroleum-derived fuels. These processes also offer energy security to countries that have abundant supplies of natural gas and/or biomass feeds. From a refinery perspective, existing hydroprocessing equipment can be utilized to upgrade Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) derived synthetic crudes into high-quality products. Oil firms may look into joint ventures with companies that can reform the natural gas and process it through a F-T reactor to yield a synthetic crude, which can then be shipped to a refinery for further upgrading.

A number of factors have contributed to the lack of widespread implementation, including economics of construction and operation, regulatory directions, and technology development and demonstration. Companies are continuing to focus on process and catalyst improvements to make these processes more attractive and competitive with traditional upgrading equipment. Going forward, XTL technologies may be an attractive alternative route for companies looking to supplement fuel production and/or expand operations into new markets. As countries around the world look to curb GHG emissions, BTL is an option for producing diesel with low carbon intensity, as BTL-derived diesel has been estimated to have life cycle CO2 emissions of ‑3 g/MJ.

Additionally, the XTL section features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

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The Review is sold for the exclusive use of the subscriber. No other use, duplication, or publication of the Review or any part contained therein is permitted without written consent from Hydrocarbon Publishing Company, P.O. Box 661, Southeastern PA 19399 (USA).

Keywords: XTL, gas-to-liquids, GTL, natural gas, stranded gas, methane, CO2, GHGs, biomass-to-liquids, BTL, Fischer-Tropsch, F-T, synthetic fuels, synfuel, middle distillates, diesel, jet fuel, gasoline, naphtha, hydroprocessing, hydrocracking, hydroisomerization, reforming, gasification, biomass, syngas, syngas conditioning, lubricants, lubes, low carbon fuel standard