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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Quarterly Issues)

SULFUR PLANT AND CRUDE DISTILLATION
Publication date:1Q 2013
Item#: B21301

Sulfur Plant and Crude distillation



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 also features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

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 also features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

Crude distillation

Crude distillation is considered a primary processing operation in refineries throughout the world. Every barrel of oil fed into these plants is charged to the crude unit for initial separation of a range of petroleum products. Global crude distillation capacity increased by 2.82% (just over 907K b/cd), to bring the worldwide total to over 88.9MM b/cd, from Jan. 2012 to Jan. 2013 with an average increase of 0.89%/y worldwide over the past five years. Operation of the crude distillation unit (CDU) will have an impact on the yield and quality of every single product leaving the refinery, and therefore, it will be beneficial to refiners to make the successful design and operation of this unit a top priority. For the purpose of this publication, the CDU will be considered as one unit comprising two components: an atmospheric tower and a vacuum tower.

Crude distillation technology is considered an open art/off the shelve technology by many, however, there are still licensers for this technology in Foster Wheeler, KBR, Shell, Technip, and Uhde. The competition exists for peripheral technology associated with CDU like advanced process controls, simulators, internals, etc. Most of the industrial advances involving the CDU are associated more with operations and efficiency improvements including the processing of heavier types of sour crudes, mitigating corrosion and fouling, and improving energy efficiency. Furthermore, the shale oil boom in North America is resulting in refiners in that region looking to orient existing CDUs to handle these light crudes that can present their own unique challenge especially in terms of fouling due to the paraffinic nature of these crudes.

The key areas of focus are processing of heavier types of sour crudes, meeting market conditions, and energy efficiency. With the reducing supply of conventional light and sweet crude, refiners have to investigate best practice to process heavy sourer crudes even with increased risk of fouling and corrosion in the process equipment. These are major problems as they can reduce throughput and at worst, cause plant shutdown. Avoiding such problems requires proper maintenance by close monitoring of process, simulations to predict problems, modifying of equipment and process, and even replacement of equipment for smooth operations. While processing such unconventional crudes, the refiners also need to meet market standards and satisfy government regulations which further impacts margins. Therefore increasing energy efficiency is another area of investigation for CDU using advanced heat integration and advanced efficient internal mechanisms/hardware. CDU is one of the most energy intensive process and with new concerns about CO2 emissions, energy slashing methods are investigated. The crude distillation section also features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

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Keywords: 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, ammonia destruction, CDU, crude distillation, ADU, VDU, crude, crude oil, vacuum tower, atmospheric tower, crude tower, desalter, heavy oil, shale oil, opportunity crudes, fouling, corrosion, energy efficiency, preheat train