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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Quarterly Issues)

SULFUR PLANT AND REFINERY AROMATICS PRODUCTION (QUARTERLY ISSUES)
Publication date:1Q 2012
Item#: B21201

Sulfur Plant and Refinery 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 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 trilobe and quadralobe tailgas treating catalysts for reducing the pressure drop across the tailgas treater in order to lower coke make on the catalyst has been commercialized by a number of catalyst companies. 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. The sulfur plant section features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

Aromatics Production

Aromatic hydrocarbons—primarily benzene, toluene, and xylene or BTX—provide the building blocks for a range of petrochemical products that are used in a wide variety of applications. BTX aromatics are primarily produce via catalytic reforming—either as a byproduct of fuels production or in dedicated units—as well as from steam crackers, and via several alternative methods. Reformate and pyrolysis gasolines (pygas) contribute to the vast majority of the aromatics produced. Reformate has a greater xylene content, while pygas has a higher benzene content. Due to a greater demand for para-xylene and the current surplus of benzene, reformate is seen as the obvious choice to use for aromatics production.

Aromatics production in and around the catalytic reformer will be the primary concern for refiners but, due to ever-changing market and regulatory factors, fuels producers may look alter the configuration of their current units or integrate other processes.

In addition to benzene and xylene, reformate also contains toluene and heavier aromatics, which can be converted to benzene and desired xylenes via hydrodealkylation, disproportionation, transalkylation, isomerization, or alkylation. Benzene, toluene and xylenes (BTX) can also be produced from liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), light olefins, and LCO using on-purpose technologies and/or be recovered from refined products via liquid-liquid extraction, extractive distillation, or azeotropic distillation. Additionally, crystallization and adsorption processes are implemented for the recovery of pure para-xylene or meta-xylene.

Although the future distribution of aromatics production and recovery technologies is difficult to forecast, there have been noted developments in the production of the PC building blocks via both conventional means (i.e., cat reforming, steam cracking) as well as from new and alternative feedstocks. The aromatics production section features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

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SRU, acid gas removal, AGR, Claus unit, tailgas treating, TGT, SOX, desulfurization, 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, aromatics, aromatics production, BTX, benzene, toluene, xylene, meta-xylene, ortho-xylene, para-xylene, catalytic reforming, hydrodealkylation, disproportionation, transalkylation, aromatics recovery/purification, solvent extraction, extractive distillation, adsorption, crystallization, xylenes isomerization, xylenes separation, xylenes purification