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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Quarterly Issues)

Publication date:2Q 2015
Item#: B21502

Hydrocracking, and Hydrogen Production, Purification, and Recovery


Hydrocracking (HC) is utilized in refineries to upgrade a variety of feeds that range from coker naphtha to various heavy gas oils and residual fractions into lighter molecules that have higher average volatility and improved economic value. Hydrocracking works to improve the quality of the initial feedstock by removing N and S and increasing the hydrogen-to-carbon ratio. With the ongoing EU debt crisis and developing economies in China and India undergoing slower than expected growth, refiners have been forced to adjust operations to meet a number of emerging goals: increasing diesel production, processing heavy and highly contaminated crudes, and meeting stringent environmental emissions limitations and product specifications. The hydrocracking process has emerged as the primary diesel producer in many refinery configurations, and as environmental regulations on transportation fuels continue to tighten, the hydrocracker will be one of the tools available to refiners to meet new product specifications. Unlike FCCU processes, hydrocrackers can effectively yield ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) streams whereas middle distillate-range FCC products will regularly require additional treating to meet product blending specifications.

Hydrocracking units can also offer improved flexibility to shift production modes between gasoline and diesel products based on process selection, operating conditions, and catalysts used. The severity (e.g., temperature, H2 partial pressure, LHSV, process configuration, catalyst type, etc.) of the unit is set based upon the composition and properties of the feedstock processed and the desired conversion level and/or product distribution. Certain feeds (e.g., paraffinic) may be difficult to crack and thus require a higher operating temperature, while others (e.g., aromatic feeds) may have a high tendency for coke formation and, thus, require special catalyst formulations. Hydrocracker operators have been looking to increase the profitability of the unit by processing heavier feedstreams, including heavy vacuum gas oil (HVGO) and resid feeds, while minimizing hydrogen consumption and shifting production away from gasoline and towards diesel-range fuels. Residual feeds present the problems of increased H2 consumption, lower product yields and quality, and reduction in cycle length. Technology developers have been searching for methods to allow for hydrocracking units to continue normal operation while processing these difficult-to-handle feeds. These optimized parameters include higher liquid-gas distribution and reactor volume efficiency. Along with optimized process parameters, catalyst companies are also developing novel formulations that aim to increase process performance while dealing with these challenging feeds. These novel catalysts may be paired with state-of-the-art reactor internals to maximize performance.

With changing market dynamics and fuel consumption patterns that heavily favor the production/use of diesel over gasoline, process designers and catalyst manufacturers are feverishly developing cost-effective and energy-efficient hydrocracking technology and revamp options to satisfy the refining industry around the world. Hydrocracking technology licensers are also looking at new ways to remove heavy polynuclear aromatics (HPNAs) from the unit as the buildup of HPNAs can lead to increased catalyst deactivation and fouling. Multiple-phase hydroprocessing units have also been developed to minimize hydrogen consumption while also reducing unit severity. Finally, the utilization of hydrocracking technologies to upgrade resid and/or renewable feeds to produce additional supplies of high-quality diesel has been covered extensively through commercial projects and R&D work over the past several years. Additionally, the hydrocracking section features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

Hydrogen Production, Purification, and Recovery

Hydrogen Production, Purification & Recovery have become one of the most important utilities in the refining industry. Refinery hydrogen demand is increasing because of decreasing crude quality and increasingly stringent fuel standards around the world. Three major sourcing options have emerged for refiners to meet hydrogen demand: onsite production via steam reforming or alternative technologies (captive); H2 recovery from offgas and purge streams; and the purchase of hydrogen from an over-the-fence (OTF) production facility (merchant supplier). Latest developments include:

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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, hydrocracking, middle distillates, diesel, ULSD, heavy oil, tight oil, ebullated-bed, slurry-bed, fixed-bed, single-stage, two-stage, two-stage with recycle, jet fuel, kerosene, gasoil, gas oil, coker gas oil, coker naphtha, DAO, VGO, HVGO, LCO, mild hydrocracking, resid hydrocracking, renewable hydrocracking, renewable jet fuel, renewable diesel, biodiesel, dewaxing, cold flow properties, cloud point, pour point, cetane, platinum, palladium, NiMo, CoMo, NiW, heavy polynuclear aromatics, HPNAs, hydrogen supply, hydrogen demand, refinery hydrogen, hydrogen recovery, hydrogen network, merchant hydrogen, on-site hydrogen, hydroprocessing, hydrotreating, hydrocracking, desulfurization, ULSD, sulfur specifications, hydrogen recovery, hydrogen purifications, pressure swing adsorption, PSA, membrane, gasification, partial oxidation, POX, steam reforming, steam methane reformer, SMR, steam naphtha reformer, H2, H2 production, H2 recovery, refinery H2, byproduct hydrogen, merchant hydrogen, hydrogen pinch, aqueous phase reforming