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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Quarterly Issues)

Publication date:4Q 2019
Item#: B21904

Fluid Catalytic Cracking, and Hydrogen Production, Purification, and Recovery

Fluid Catalytic Cracking

Many technology developers and also refiners have held a strong belief over the past decade that FCCUs must produce more light cycle oil (LCO) to meet the global "dieselization" trend. However, Europe's dieselization trend—or the large-scale shift from gasoline-fueled vehicles to diesel-fueled ones—appears to be in the process of reversing, primarily due to the Volkswagen software-cheating scandal in 2015 and due to the difficulty diesel engines have with satisfying stringent emission standards. For many years, governments encouraged diesel sales as they saw mileage benefits of diesel as better for the environment and for combatting global warming. But now, regulations are in place to restrict consumption due to smog concerns. Many European cities and countries are enacting policies unfavorable for diesel usage, such as taxes and outright diesel bans for personal road transportation that are encouraging drivers to buy electric vehicles (EVs) and gasoline cars.

The movement away from European diesel consumption for personal road transportation may be coming at a good time because there will be a strong demand for diesel in meeting the IMO 2020 low-sulfur bunker rules. And with the US facing slowing gasoline demand growth and increasing diesel demand from the transportation sector, the FCC may be depended on more in the future for middle distillates production.

On the other hand, with the increasing personal vehicle ownership in developing countries such as China and India, the FCCU will continue to be relied upon as the primary gasoline-maker within many refineries. Also, FCCUs oriented towards maximizing propylene production will remain in demand in the future as the increased use of shale-derived light feeds in crackers has reduced co-product propylene supply.

The role of the FCCU has developed for a wide array of feedstocks and products. Continued FCC technology developments have focused on widening the boiling range of the feed that can be processed in the unit, manufacturing petrochemicals like light olefins and BTX, and maximizing LCO yields in some cases and shifting production away from LCO towards gasoline in others. Increasing focus is also being given to the co-processing of biofeeds in the FCCU.

Novel catalyst and additive formulations and production methods allow for the handling of increasingly difficult feedstocks with improved activity and selectivity. Also new additives that lower FCC gasoline sulfur or boost octane address the tightening specifications on motor gasoline being implemented around the world. And, additives continue to be developed that lower emissions from the regenerator to minimize the impact on the environment.

Additionally, the fluid catalytic cracking section features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

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 815, Paoli PA 19301-0815 (USA).

Keywords: primary conversion process, gasoline, diesel, LCO, propylene, butylenes, light olefins, LPG, fluidized bed, riser, ULSD, ULSG, ultra-low sulfur, rare earth, dieselization, SOX, NOX, slurry oil, fuel oil, fuel specifications, gasoline benzene, reformulated gasoline, RFG, CO, particulate matter, mild FCC, dual-riser, multiple riser, ZSM-5, additives, zeolite, matrix, co-catalysts, RFCC, biofeeds, catalyst regenerator, power recovery, advanced process control, opportunity crudes, energy efficiency, electrostatic precipitators, ESP, flue gas scrubber, tight oil, residual feeds, butylenes, 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