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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Quarterly Issues)

Publication date:1Q 2016
Item#: B21601

Sulfur Plant and Aromatics Production

Sulfur Plant

The need for on-purpose sulfur production has become non-existent, as byproduct sulfur production from refineries and upstream oil and gas production sites more than meets the current demand for sulfur in the market. Further, major new supplies of byproduct sulfur are expected to be introduced in to market over the coming years due to tightening product specifications for transportation fuels, developing sour gas fields in the Middle East, and increasing oilsands production in Canada.

Typically, refinery sulfur plants consist of an acid gas removal unit, a Claus sulfur recovery unit, a tailgas treatment unit (to achieve sulfur recovery levels >99.99%), and, in some instances, sulfur degasification and finishing processes. The amount of sulfur produced by each refinery will differ based on a number of factors including sulfur content in the feed coupled with the final product slate and final product specifications. This section of the Review will focus on the recovery of sulfur in a refinery setting; specifically omitted from the discussion is sulfur recovery technologies that are focused on upstream applications, such as oil and gas production.

Continued sulfur plant technology developments have focused on improving the energy efficiency of the acid gas removal unit, Claus unit, and tailgas treatment unit in order to lower operating costs as sulfur removal is done at a cost to the refiner and offers little back in terms of value, so minimizing costs is necessary to improve margins. Additionally, the utilization of Claus plants that can recover sulfur while mitigating the effects of high levels of ammonia and BTX was also discussed as deeper levels of HDS needed to meet more stringent gasoline sulfur requirements tend to increase ammonia production. Also, the use of separate processing units to process sour water stripper gas to free existing Claus capacity has been commercialized. Finally, processes that can produce sulfuric acid from recovered sulfur may become more popular due to the expected sulfur glut that will occur over the coming years as an uptick in high-quality gasoline demand growth has fueled growth for alkylate. The sulfur plant section also features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

Aromatics Production

Aromatic hydrocarbons—primarily benzene, toluene, and xylene (BTX)—provide the building blocks for a range of petrochemical products that are used in a wide variety of applications. In this Review, we focus on the ways in which hydrocarbon streams found in crude oil can be converted to valuable aromatic products. Most commonly, high aromatic yields within a refinery begin with the catalytic reformer, which converts gasoline-range material into a reformate stream that has a high BTX composition. While the reformer is most commonly used to boost the octane of gasoline streams, design and operational changes can lead to reformate streams with a high concentration of BTX, which can then be sent to an aromatics complex to undergo additional processing and product recovery.

Refineries can capitalize on the continually growing aromatics market by integrating traditional refining units with petrochemical units in order to expand a facility's product slate and ultimately boost margins. This is achieved by effectively boosting the BTX composition of product streams from FCCUs and hydrocracking units, as well as producing suitable feedstocks for the catalytic reformer so it can smoothly and efficiently produce BTX. From there the installation of an aromatics production complex that either converts certain aromatics to more valuable ones, or recovers valuable products from mixed streams is needed, should direct feed to a nearby petrochemical complex not be feasible. These reactions include hydrodealkylation units that remove alkyl groups from heavy aromatics, disproportionation/transalkylation units the convert toluene into benzene and xylene, and isomerization units that convert less valuable meta- and ortho-xylene into highly sought after paraxylene.

Once produced, the recovery of product is equally important within the aromatics complex. Extractive distillation and fractionation can recover BTX products from mixed hydrocarbon streams, while adsorption and crystallization units often work in conjunction with isomerization units in order to recover paraxylene from mixed C8 streams. The aromatics production section also 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).

Keyword: SRU, acid gas removal, AGR, Claus unit, tailgas treating, TGT, SOX, desulfurization, CO2, COS, clean fuels specification, H2S, ultra-low sulfur, ULSD, ULSG, clean fuels, elemental sulfur, direct oxidation, amine scrubbing, amine solvent, advanced process control, acid gas corrosion, foaming, amine loss, fuel gas sweetening, ammonia destruction, BTX destruction, sour crude, sub dew-point Claus, oxygen-enriched Claus, sulfur degasification, sulfur finishing, sulfur granulation, analyzers, instrumentation, sour water stripper gas, aromatics, aromatics production, BTX, benzene, toluene, xylene, meta-xylene, ortho-xylene, paraxylene, catalytic reforming, hydrodealkylation, disproportionation, transalkylation, aromatics recovery/purification, solvent extraction, extractive distillation, adsorption, crystallization, xylenes isomerization, xylenes separation, xylenes purification