HYDROCARBON PUBLISHING COMPANY
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SULFUR PLANT AND REFINERY IOT
Publication date:1Q 2017
Sulfur Plant and Refinery IoT
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 and BTX 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 separate processing units to process sour water stripper gas to free existing Claus capacity has been commercialized. 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 as an uptick in high-quality gasoline demand growth has fueled growth for alkylate. The sulfur plant section also features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:
As a result of the current challenge of maintaining profitability in the face of oversupply, weaker demand and lower oil prices, refiners are increasingly seeking to improve plant safety, reliability and efficiency by turning to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). It is also thought that the IIoT may be a potential solution to the aging workforce problem that the oil & gas industry is facing as increased access to valuable data will help to fill the knowledge void that will be created at retirement. And more refiners may capitalize on the attractiveness of the IIoT to a new generation of talented young professionals that are adept at using the latest technology and might be opposed to relocating to remote locations for work.
The ‘things’ in the IIoT are wireless sensors and other smart devices that are deployed in a widespread manner throughout the refinery for continuous data collection. Data analytics techniques are then performed yielding information about issues that are occurring and those that have the potential to occur. Cloud-based storage platforms enable companies to remotely access data from all of their facilities to aid in the decision-making process.
To meet the demand for increased connectivity, new sensors continue to be developed including wireless options. Also, drones are being utilized to collect data during inspections by an increasing number of companies in the downstream sector. New big data analytics and machine learning solutions have been introduced as part of a shift to a predictive maintenance approach to plant optimization. And some companies have begun to bolster their IIoT platform of core components with services and solutions offered by partner companies thereby forming digital ecosystems. Finally, companies are addressing the cyber security challenge inherent with the IIoT and collaborative efforts are underway for further development in this area. The refinery IIoT 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, CO2, COS, 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, BTX destruction, sour crude, sub dew-point Claus, oxygen-enriched Claus, sulfur degasification, sulfur finishing, sulfur granulation, analyzers, instrumentation, sour water stripper gas, Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT, digitalization, connectivity, sensor, transmitter, drone, data collection, data storage, cloud, data quality, data platform, analytics, machine learning, platform-as-a-service, IIoT platform, digital ecosystem, cyber attacks, cyber security, SIEM, malware