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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Quarterly Issues)

Publication date:4Q 2012
Item#: B21204

Fluid Catalytic Cracking and Gas Processing

Fluid Catalytic Cracking

The fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) is a main refinery conversion process and is responsible for producing a large amount of the refinery gasoline pool along with diesel, light olefins, and LPG. Having been introduced in the 1940s, the FCCU is also one of the most mature technologies in the refinery. Recent global economic concerns and market conditions (i.e., shift from gasoline to diesel, strict environmental regulations, lower refinery utilization rates, processing of more heavy crudes) have caused a number of analysts to declare that the FCC is an "obsolete" process. While the FCC may need to alter its operating strategy, it is hardly obsolete.

Continued FCC technology developments have focused on widening the boiling range of the feed that can be processed in the unit, maximizing diesel and light olefins yields, and providing operational flexibility in order to allow the unit to take advantage of favorable market opportunities to maximize unit profitability. Additionally, the implementation of highly integrated refinery-petrochemicals complexes, with the FCCU serving as a key processing unit, is another option being explored to maximize production margins. To ensure that the FCC process remains a viable refiner conversion technology for the coming years, future work will involve the introduction and development of novel processing schemes, hardware designs, and catalyst formulations to enable the processing of residual and renewable feedstocks while allowing for flexibility and optimization in the FCC product slate. Novel catalyst formulations and production methods will be oriented towards handling increasingly difficult feedstocks with improved activity and selectivity while coping with skyrocketing prices of rare earth materials. Also, fuel reformulation and sulfur reduction and advanced emissions control technologies are being developed so that the process remains capable of meeting regulatory targets concerning both fuel quality standards and environmental emissions. The fluid catalytic cracking section features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

Gas Processing

Driven by tight margins and stricter environmental regulations, refineries are investigating various methods to increase revenue. One area of exploration is recovery of valuable products from gaseous streams produced in various refinery units (hydrocracker, hydrotreating, reformer, etc). These refinery offgas (ROG) streams contain valuable products like hydrogen and light hydrocarbons (ethylene, propylene, and LPG). With increasing worldwide demand for each compound, there is a potential to increase margins.

Currently, there are five separation methods: absorption, adsorption, distillation, membrane, and hybrid. Distillation, specifically cryogenic distillation is a popular commercial technology for extracting light hydrocarbons while adsorption, specifically pressure swing adsorption is popular for hydrogen recovery. Absorption method exists that can be used for separation of light hydrocarbons and hydrogen but can be intensive due to equipments required and cost of solvent regeneration. Membrane technology is gaining ground due to its low operational and investment costs. Hybrid systems are also gaining ground because it effectively combines two ore more separation methods for efficient high purity recovery. The gas processing 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: primary conversion process, gasoline, diesel, LCO, propylene, 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, hydrogen, light olefins, ethane, ethylene, propylene, butene, butylene, LPG, propane, CO2, propylene splitters, PSA, offgas, membrane separation, absorption, adsorption