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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Quarterly Issues)

Publication date:3Q 2010
Item#: B21003

Hydrocracking (HC) has become an integral unit for refiners looking to process lower-quality, (and therefore, lower-cost) crudes into high quality fuels.


The process is utilized either by itself or in combination with FCC to upgrade a variety of feeds, including VGO from conventional and heavy crudes, DAO, coker distillates, LCO, residual fuel oil, and atmospheric residues. It permits the refinery to increase the quality and output of fuel products as well as to adjust the balance of the product slate between distillates and gasoline.

By virtue of its flexibility, hydrocracking is an essential process in the modern refinery with regard to potential feed and products slate as well as the product quality. Strong demand for middle distillate fuels, tightening product specifications, and the increased processing of heavier feeds are representing a fundamental shift in current market conditions. Several improvements have been made in hydrocracking technology that allow refiners to upgrade these heavier feeds into high quality diesel fuel. These include advances in slurry-phase resid hydrocracking and integration schemes that allow refiners to maximize diesel production while minimizing H2 and energy consumption. Additionally in the hydrocracking section, new products and topics covered include:


Coking is a major bottom-of-the-barrel upgrading process whose popularity has risen steadily in response to heavier crude supplies and the dwindling demand for residual fuel oils. This process converts heavy feedstocks such as vacuum residuals, heavy cracked gas oils, and decanted oils into gas, LPG, relatively low-boiling distillates, and solid coke. Furthermore, petroleum coke, a byproduct of coking, is finding use in a variety of markets throughout the industrial sector. Coking is a carbon-rejection method achieved through the severe thermal cracking of heavy hydrocarbon feeds, most typically vacuum resid feeds. The three main types of coking processes available to the petroleum industry are delayed coking, FLEXICOKING, and FLUID COKING

Historically, strong gasoline markets and diverse outlets for petroleum coke made delayed coking the most prolific residue upgrading technique; however, some of these market factors are changing as diesel demand is outpacing gasoline and some outlets for petcoke have or will come under scrutiny with new SOX and CO2 regulations. A number of operational and technical improvements have been made in the area of coking that refiners can take advantage of to increase profitability and enhance liquid product yield while processing increasingly heavy feeds. Furthermore, best practices for enhancing operator safety in delayed coking are presented to allow refiners to ensure that their most valuable asset—plant personnel—is protected. Other process advances focus on improved integration with other processing units and methods to selectively control coke quality and morphology depending on the specific goals of the processing plant. Additionally in the coking section, new products and topics covered include:

  • A review of the market for refined projects and petroleum coke in relation to coking and other bottom-of-the-barrel upgrading technology advances;
  • Updated information on delayed coking technologies from ConocoPhillips, Foster Wheeler/UOP, KBR, Lummus Technology, Sinopec, and Petrobras;
  • A review of the latest advances in FLUID COKING and FLEXICOKING by ExxonMobil;
  • US Cokertech's Improved Delayed Coker Unit (IDCU);
  • Automated unheading technologies presented by CITGO, Curtiss Wright Flow Control, Flowserve, and Zimmerman and Jansen;
  • Alternative technologies that may be competitive with coking including Chiyoda's Eureka Process, ETX Systems's cross-flow coker, and Toyo Engineering's HSC technology;
  • Strategies to control coke quality/morphology and to enhance the value of byproduct coke;
  • Synergies with various refining units including vacuum distillation, solvent deasphalting, etc.;
  • Discussions of coker safety with best practices according to OHSA; and
  • A review of current research and development activities in the area of coking technology with papers and patents focusing on delayed and fluid coking processing, control of coke quality and morphology, process integration, unconventional feedstocks, and more.
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