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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Individual Technology)

Publication date:4Q 2019
Item#: B1013

Hydrogen Production, Purification, and Recovery

Refinery hydrogen production, purification, and recovery is critical to the refining industry as hydrogen demand is increasing because of decreasing crude quality and increasingly stringent fuel standards around the world. About a third of refinery H2 demand is met via byproduct supply from catalytic reforming units. The remainder comes from onsite dedicated H2 production via steam reforming or alternative technologies, recovery from offgas and purge streams, and the purchase of hydrogen from an over-the-fence production facility (merchant supplier).

Refinery-scale hydrogen production technology is currently dominated by the steam reforming of a natural gas or other light hydrocarbons. Steam reformer systems are typically sold as a complete H2 plant, including the necessary pretreatment, shift conversion, and purification units. Hydrogen purification downstream of the steam methane reformer (SMR) is typically achieved using PSA or membrane technology. Refinery H2 recovery from offgas and purge gas streams can be achieved in a number of different configurations. The core technologies are very similar to purification technologies that are in place at the back end of conventional reforming facilities. Depending on the refinery configuration, refiners can choose to recover offgas in the PSA associated with the SMR, install a dedicated PSA for refinery offgas, or utilize the offgas as feed to the SMR plant.

An area of concern with SMRs is that they contribute to a significant portion of a refinery's overall carbon footprint, due mainly to the fact that most of the carbon fed into the unit ends up as CO2. As such, hydrogen producers have moved from the approach used in previous decades whereby CO2 was simply separated from the hydrogen and generally sent into the atmosphere. They are instead looking to options such as lowering combustion requirements and removing CO2 from syngas, PSA tailgas, and flue gas. In the future, refiners may turn to dry reforming, blue hydrogen production (steam reforming with carbon capture storage), and to a lesser degree electrolysis to lower CO2 emissions.

Additionally, the refinery hydrogen production, purification, and recovery 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: hydrogen, syngas, production, purification, recovery, steam methane reforming, autothermal reforming, partial oxidation, natural gas, prereforming, CO shift, methanation, over-the-fence supply, offgas, purge gas, PSA, membrane, cryogenic, dry reforming, electrolysis, hydrogen management