HYDROCARBON PUBLISHING COMPANY
Translating Knowledge into Profitability®
A member of the Hydrocarbon Analytics Group
Publication date:1Q 2014
Throughout the world, crude and liquid product prices are rising as the global economy continues to recover from widespread demand destruction. Furthermore, there is an increasing presence of heavy crudes on the market; these crudes are typically sold at a discount, but require additional upgrading. As a result, many refiners have been focusing on technology suitable for upgrading these discounted, heavy feedstocks. Coking is a major bottom-of-the-barrel upgrading process whose popularity has risen steadily in response to heavier crude supplies and the dwindling demand for residual fuel oils. This process converts heavy feedstocks such as vacuum residuals, heavy cracked gas oils, and decanted oils into gas, LPG, relatively low-boiling distillates, and solid coke. Furthermore, petroleum coke, a byproduct of coking, is finding use in a variety of markets throughout the industrial sector. Historically, strong gasoline markets and diverse outlets for petroleum coke made delayed coking the most prolific residue upgrading technique; however, some of these market factors are changing as diesel demand is outpacing gasoline and some outlets for petcoke have or will come under scrutiny with new SOX and CO2 regulations. Operational improvements and technical advances must be applied by refiners to support continued growth of coking technology as it is utilized in plants dealing with difficult feedstocks, tight production margins, demanding efficiency standards, and stringent environmental constraints.
As the worldwide crude slate shifts to heavy and extra-heavy refinery feeds, refiners will need to take advantage of various bottoms upgrading techniques to cut deeper into the crude barrel to yield valuable distillate products. Many of these technologies have been around since the 1950s or even earlier and have reached commercial maturity. Some of the more advanced processes have recently evolved as modifications of conventional processes to deal with the increased resid contents of incoming feeds. Finally, the development of highly integrated processing schemes has aided refiners in economically processing resid streams.
Due to the flexibility of the process, coking has emerged as the leading technology in residue upgrading both in the refinery and in upstream heavy oil upgrading plants. Several significant trends have emerged that can be identified by analyzing the current state-of-the-art technology and the recent research work related to coking processes. Strategies to increase efficiency and liquid yield have become prevalent, as have integrated processing options that incorporate delayed coking technology with other refining units. Significant resources have also been invested in efforts to better understand and control coke quality and morphology in delayed coking process. Also, advances in coke drums and feed mechanisms, coker furnace design and use, processes designed for unique/specialized feeds, and improvements in maintenance techniques and equipment have been presented that can extend run length to augment production capacity. Finally, safety issues related to the coking process have emerged as a primary area of focus in the industry. Alternative uses of petroleum coke and handling of coking water have also seen advancements. The coking section also features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:
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coking, delayed coking, FLEXICOKING, FLUID COKING, fluidized-bed coking, continuous coking, additives, heavy oil, oilsands, bitumen, opportunity crudes, fuel oil, coker gas oil, integration, bottoms upgrading, bottom-of-the-barrel processing, coker heater, coker furnace, coke drum, coker fractionator, unheading, coke, petcoke, petroleum coke, anode-grade coke, fuel-grade coke, electrode-grade coke, needle coke, sponge coke, coker gas oil, anti-fouling agents, hydrocutting, hydrocyclone