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SOLVENT EXTRACTION AND DEASPHALTING
Publication date:2Q 2014
Solvent Extraction and Deasphalting
Solvent extraction and deasphalting processes—or solvent deasphalting (SDA) as it is commonly known—use hydrocarbons such as propane, butanes, pentanes, or a mixture of these to extract light, paraffinic components from heavy residue streams. Regardless of the level of impurities in the feedstock, these processes effectively produce deasphalted (DAO) or demetallized oil (terms that are used interchangeably). DAO product quality and yield are dependent upon the solvent that is selected for the process; i.e., the quality (metals, sulfur, nitrogen and Conradson carbon levels) of the products—which can be used as lubricating oil base stock or cracker feedstock—decreases with increasing yield and with the use of heavier solvents. The heavy, highly-aromatic asphalt raffinate (pitch) can be used in a number of ways (e.g., coker feed, gasification feed, road bitumen, etc.); recovering value from the heavy byproducts will be a crucial factor in the economic advantage of deasphalting units.
Solvent deasphalting (SDA) technology can be flexibly applied in a number of areas in the refinery and in midstream heavy oil upgrading applications. Two primary features of this technology include the relatively low energy intensity and the lack of an economy of scale (i.e., refiners are not constrained by the need to install large SDA units and can economically deploy this technology in both small- and large-capacity projects). As a result, solvent deasphalting can allow refiners to improve bottoms processing capacity without negatively impacting the energy efficiency of the plant by adding a small or large capacity SDA unit. Furthermore, many integration opportunities exist to reduce the carbon footprint of the processing scheme. The size and placement of the unit will depend largely on the current refinery configuration, feed processed, and the desired product slate of the plant.
The demand for residual oil for regions around the globe is on the decline. A general shift to lighter distillate projects has also been observed, resulting in diminished demand for fuel oil and bunker fuels. In response to declining fuel oil demand, refiners will seek alternative market outlets for products derived from the residual cut of the crude barrel. Aside from fuel oil, specialty asphalts (e.g., road oils, roofing materials) and lubricant products are the most relevant to solvent deasphalting processes.
The worldwide demand for light distillate products is continuously rising as demand for residual fuel oil is diminishing. The refining industry has responded with an increase in bottoms conversion capacity—including solvent deasphalting—to transform heavier barrels of crude into lighter products. As bottoms conversion capacity increases, the supply of transportation fuels will inevitably increase while fuel oil production is limited. In conjunction with this trend, refiners will be left searching for attractive novel uses and industrial markets for the remaining residual components products from bottoms processing technology including asphalts, pitch, petroleum coke, and smaller quantities of residual fuel oil.
Overall, the worldwide reduction in fuel oil demand, coupled with the increase in demand for higher-value refined products has led refiners around the world to alter plant configurations and add bottoms upgrading capacity to shift the refinery product slate and make the supply of distillate products more closely match demand trends. The potential to install SDA equipment exists where refineries are exploring to increase their product yield with limited capital; furthermore, novel process configurations and plant strategies may result in continued interest in solvent deasphalting technology.
Additionally, the hydrocracking section features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:
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