Is FCC still the heart of Refining?

Presented By

Shailendra Mohite - Kuwait Petroleum International

Conference: Gdańsk 2020

A review of the Refining forecast for the next 15 – 20 years reveals few fundamental factors that will re-shape production boundaries – beyond high-quality fuels for legislative requirements and higher conversion through integrated complexity of crude to chemicals, namely:

  • Operational flexibility to swing production from BTX intermediates to Gasoline blends as per demand
  • Unlock value from non-traditional feeds; like by-products of Naphtha Cracker or Condensates to Aromatics
  • Achieving higher Octane with lower emissions
  • Maximizing Propylene and Ethylene by integrating FCC with Steam Crackers – besides providing more flexibility on feedstocks, higher production of petrochemicals and lower opex

In the center of these transformations, FCC will play a vital influential role as the most versatile convertor.

FCC can achieve these major objectives, irrespective of feedstocks or product yields, from conventional models to newer models of R-FCC and petro-FCC and larger capacities never designed before.

It can also change from the production of large volumes of gasoline blend components (~ 70 vol.% of the pool), to the production of large volumes of diesel blend components (~ 40 vol.% of the pool).

Although FCC process has been successful for over 60 years, the technology continues to evolve for new challenges. This presentation covers recent FCC technology advances through integrated R&D that bridge the process of science and engineering practices.

Important innovations have been developed in all phases of the technology: feed pre-treatment, FCC reactor technology, catalyst regeneration, distillate operation, high propylene production, product recovery and product & effluent treatment.

World-scale Propylene production has been commercialized economically with DCC and HS-FCC. These hi-tech models can produce four times more on-purpose light olefins (propylene and butene) and higher octane gasoline than conventional FCC units.

Advanced diagnostic and design tools are accelerating the creation of new CFD modeling and radioactive tomography tracking has encouraged the development of large riser designs – requiring reduced excess oxygen level and thereby decreased NOx emissions. The models can ensure plug flow without back-mixing, allowing more selectivity toward light olefins.

Upgrades have been implemented for its hardware including feed nozzles, riser termination systems, stripper design, regenerator air and catalyst distribution, and catalyst coolers in extreme cases.

A comparative case study is also being presented from a recent commissioning experience of RFCC. This includes the large reactor and regen flows, coke make, temperature controls influenced by extra precautions at design, fabrication and commissioning stages, etc.

FCCU is no longer just a gasoline producer but is producing petrochemical feedstocks, pretreating tar sands and producing biofuels. With this range of demonstrated flexibility and volumetric expansion of 110% of feed, FCCU is still one of the most valuable process units in the refinery, in spite of competitive upgraders.

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