HYDROCARBON PUBLISHING COMPANY
Translating Knowledge into Profitability®
A member of the Hydrocarbon Analytics Group
REFINERY AROMATICS PRODUCTION
Publication date:1Q 2016
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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Keywords: 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