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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Quarterly Issues)

Publication date:4Q 2009
Item#: B20904

This issue of the Review includes a thorough evaluation of state-of-the-art commercial technology, plant operations and design, and innovative research and development work for fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) and light olefins production technologies.

Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC)

This section of the Review contains an in-depth look at current FCC process, hardware, and catalyst technologies. The technologies discussed will help a refiner to maximize the profitability of the FCCU by allowing the refiner to adapt to changing market conditions, specifically a shift from gasoline to diesel.

Historically, the fluid catalytic cracking unit has been tailored to be the refinery's top gasoline producer. The global economic recession since H2 2008, however, has recently kept gasoline demand low, especially in the West, making many FCC-based refineries unprofitable due to their surplus of gasoline. Thus, the current market encourages a reduction in gasoline production and an increase in middle distillates with growth in distillate demand more than doubling that of gasoline since 2002.

Global fluid catalytic cracking capacity increased by 1.15% or over 152K b/d to 13.22MM b/d between Jan. 2009 and Jan. 2010 with Asia-Pacific (200K b/cd) and Western Europe (54.3K b/cd) accounting for almost all of this growth. The US still ranks first in total FCC capacity (5.6MM b/cd) but has seen FCC capacity decrease over the last year due to decreasing demand and margins for gasoline.

With a call for reduction in CO2 emissions to combat global warming, refiners will need to begin to look for ways to curb GHG emissions to meet upcoming reduction targets. One area to consider will be the burning of catalyst coke in the FCC regenerator as it accounts for approximately 15-25% of a refinery's CO2 emissions.

More detailed information regarding fluid catalytic cracking in terms of supply and demand, capacity additions, and technology competition/development are discussed as part of the Market/Technology Trends and Opportunities section in this issue of the Review. Also, in the FCC section, new processes, catalysts, and topics covered include:

Light Olefins Production

This section of the Review contains comprehensive analysis of refinery light olefins technology associated with the FCCU, and also, information of "on-purpose" light olefin production technologies: cracking of heavier olefins, metathesis, propane and butane dehydrogenation, and methanol-to-olefins. The processes will help to meet increasing demand for propylene and other light olefins in the future as petrochemical producers look for alternative to conventional steam cracking.

Refiners are primarily concerned with propylene production as a byproduct of FCC processing coupled with highly efficient recovery techniques. Alternative production techniques, however, are also important to refiners as feedstock supply and product recovery can be implemented in a highly-integrated configuration to improve production margins and overall plant profitability. Overall, the factors influencing light olefins production and the influence on refiners is highly regional specific due to differing refinery configurations, regional supply and demand trends, and the presence and/or viability of alternative production technologies

Additionally, increasing worldwide attention on industrial CO2 emissions in relation to global warming may support investment in alternative production technologies, as an estimated 180-200MM mt/y of CO2 are released in association with ethylene and propylene production throughout the world. Many of the on-purpose technologies claim gains in energy efficiency and improvements in emissions performance over existing thermal cracking, FCC, and cryogenic recovery technologies.

Worldwide propylene capacity for 2010 was estimated at 96.8MM mt/y. The Asia-Pacific region is credited with the largest portion of this total producing 24.269MM mt/y or 32.4% of the world's annual output. One estimate pegged the contribution of steam cracking to worldwide propylene supply at 61% in 2008, while petroleum refineries contributed 34% and on-purpose propylene plants accounted for only ~3% of capacity. Other estimates stated that on-purpose propylene production technologies accounted for ~5% of worldwide propylene production in 2007, and this number is expected to balloon to 12% by 2015

More detailed information regarding light olefins production in terms of supply and demand, capacity additions, and technology competition/development are discussed as part of the Market/Technology Trends and Opportunities section in this issue of the Review. Also, in the light olefins production section, new processes, catalysts, and topics covered include:

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