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acuum distillation units (VDU) have been the workhorse in the rening industry for recovering distillable products
contained in crude oil. The feed to the VDU is the atmospheric tower bottoms (ATB) left behind when the lighter portions
of the crude are distilled off in a column operating near atmospheric pressure. The vacuum gas oil (VGO) distilled in
the VDU is converted to lighter more valuable products, typically in a uidised catalytic cracker (FCC) or a hydrocracker.
The vacuum tower bottoms (VTB) is the least valuable portion of the crude oil and its characteristics require cost intensive
processing, typically delayed coking, for recovery of more usable products. For a given crude mix, the renery protability will
be higher if more feed for conversion units such as FCC or hydrocracker is recovered from ATB, while maintaining or improving
its quality.
While vacuum distillation allows a decent recovery of gas oils, another commercially utilised process, solvent deasphalting
(SDA) allows further recovery of oils from VTB by extracting with a solvent. An efcient implementation of the SDA technology
utilises supercritical process conditions to dramatically reduce energy consumption. This technology, offered by KBR, is
Vasant Patel, Rashid Iqbal and Odette Eng, KBR, USA,
discuss residue upgrading options involving solvent
extraction, with and without using a vacuum column.
To vacuum
or not to vacuum
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Reprinted from HYDROCARBONENGINEERING June2007 www.hydrocarbonengineering.com
called Residuum Oil Supercritical Extraction (ROSE) and
includes design features that allow sharper separation
between deasphalted oil (DAO) and asphaltenes. In this
process, a parafnic solvent such as butane is contacted
with VTB. The asphaltenic components of VTB, which
contain much of the undesirable contaminants, are
insoluble in the solvent and rejected as a separate phase.
The soluble oil, DAO, is separated from the solvent and is
generally processed along with VGO thereby enhancing the
yield of more valuable products.
The feed to a ROSE unit can be either the VTB or ATB.
With ATB feed, the recovered DAO includes the part of
crude oil that could have been recovered as VGO (if the
ATB was processed in a VDU) plus additional material
that is soluble in the solvent. Thus a single ROSE unit
processing ATB will have VGO+DAO yield and quality
similar to that obtained with a conguration that includes
two units: the VDU and a ROSE processing VTB. Having
one unit instead of two is economically attractive in many
situations.
This article will provide a brief overview of the ROSE
technology and a discussion of the results of a case
study that examines the relative economics of renery
congurations that differ in the way VDU and ROSE units
are used for processing residues.
Value in the bottom barrel
The vacuum residue is among the least valuable
intermediate products in a renery. Renery protability is
greatly impacted by how much value is recovered from this
stream by either processing it further, as in a delayed coker,
by minimising its yield by deeper vacuum distillation or by
solvent extraction to recover DAO.
The steady increase in rened product demand has
lead to an increased dependency on heavier crudes to
meet the incremental demand. The heavy crudes, available
at a signicant discount to light sweet crudes, yield
signicantly more processable residue than light crudes.
Today, more than ever, there is a need to extract the
most value from residues to realise the maximise renery
protability. Figure 1 shows how solvent extraction allows
increased recovery of oils suitable for FCC feed compared
to the traditional method of vacuum distillation.
ROSE technology
ROSE is a proven solvent extraction technology that
can be used for recovering high value feed for FCC or
hydrocracker from atmospheric and vacuum residues. A
simplied ow sketch is shown in Figure 2. Vacuum or
atmospheric residue mixed with circulating solvent enters
the asphaltene separator. The asphaltenes are insoluble in
the solvent and are drawn from the bottom of the separator.
A small amount of solvent carried with the asphaltenes is
stripped in a reboiled trayed asphaltene stripper.
The light phase in the asphaltene separator, containing
most of the solvent and the DAO, is heated slightly so that
the solvent and DAO separation occurs under supercritical
condition in the DAO separator. A key feature of ROSE
is that this supercritical separation does not require full
vaporisation of the solvent thus far less energy is required
than in conventional SDA processed. The solvent separated
in the DAO separator leaves from the top of the separator
and cools by giving up heat to the incoming DAO/solvent
mixture in the ROSE cross exchanger. The cooled solvent
is recirculated back to the asphaltene separator. The DAO
from the DAO separator is heated and stripped to remove
any solvent contained in it. The solvents from both product
strippers are mixed with the circulating solvent entering the
asphaltene separator.
The process conditions and the type of solvent
determine the DAO yield. The solvents are typically one
of the light parafns: propane, isobutene, normal butane,
isopentane or pentane. The quality of DAO depends on
the yield. The higher the DAO yield, the higher the metals,
sulfur and other contaminants in DAO. Typical DAO
contaminant levels are shown in Figure 3. These curves
are typical and the actual contaminant levels vary with the
nature of the feed.
The parafns present in the feed are soluble in the
parafnic solvents and as a result the DAO, even at high
yields, is more parafnic than VGOs obtained in a VDU. For
conversion units such as FCC, this is desirable because
parafns crack to desirable products easier than other
types of molecules.
The ROSE process described above has two products,
DAO and asphaltenes. With the addition of one more
Figure 2. ROSE process scheme.
Figure 3. DAO quality versus yield.
Figure 1. Value in the bottom barrel.
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separator vessel and a product stripper, a ROSE
unit can make three products: a light DAO
(LDAO), a heavy DAO (HDAO) and asphaltenes.
Compared to the DAO from a two product ROSE,
the LDAO can have much lower metals and other
contaminants and density. When processing ATB,
this ROSE option would provide LDAO of quality
better than LVGO from a VDU that would make an
excellent feed to a hydrocracker. The HDAO could
be processed in an FCC.
A vast database of commercial and pilot plant
performance is maintained by KBR to help predict
the performance with any specic feedstock
source. The yield and solvent are determined
based on the quality targets for downstream
processing of DAO and asphaltenes.
ROSE unit feed can be either vacuum or
atmospheric residue. The feeds for two of the
grassroots ROSE units currently under design are
atmospheric residues. Two of the operating units have run
on atmospheric residue feeds when the vacuum residues
were not available.
ROSE units can be designed for large capacities
with single train ROSE units having capacities of up to
100 000 bpd.
Vacuum unit and ROSE
comparison
The atmospheric bottoms can be processed in a vacuum
distillation unit or in a ROSE unit. The differences between
the two are highlighted in Table 1. While ROSE can be an
alternate to a VDU, it can also economically supplement an
existing VDU by processing the vacuum tower bottoms or a
portion of the VDU feed (ATB).
Case study
How a renery processes the residues has a very signicant
impact on the protability especially when processing
heavier crudes. In the case study presented here, three
different renery congurations have been considered,
each with two heavy representative crudes so as to
compare the relative economics of each conguration. The
study basis and methodology are listed below.
Grassroots refinery.
Configurations with and without VDU and ROSE.
One set of cases with Arab heavy crude, the other set
with Maya crude.
Refinery wide balances incorporating yield and quality
estimates for each unit.
Capital and operating costs account for feed quality.
Compare capital cost and operating margin to identify
the most economical cases.
Case definition
Figures 4 - 6 show the renery congurations. All
congurations include the atmospheric column, delayed
coker, FCC feed hydrotreater and FCC. The crude oils
processed in the renery are Arab heavy (API 28.2, sulfur
2.8 wt%) and Maya (API 21.5, sulfur 3.4 wt%). The renery
crude throughput for all cases is 200 000 bpd.
Cases 1A and 1M (Figure 4): This is the base refinery
configuration with a VDU. Crude for Case 1A is Arab
Heavy and for Case 1M Maya.
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Figure 4. Base refinery configuration (cases 1A and 1M).
Figure 5. Refinery configuration with VDU and ROSE (cases 2A and 2M).
Figure 6. Refinery configuration with ROSE, No VDU (cases 3A and 3M).
Table 1. Vacuum distillation and ROSE comparison
Vacuum distillation ROSE
Commercial
applications
Extensive, several hundred
commercial units
Wide, several dozen
commercial units
Feed type Atmospheric tower bottoms Atmospheric or vacuum tower
bottoms
Oil recovery
limitations
VGO recovery limited by
maximum permissible tem-
perature and vacuum levels
achievable
DAO recovery not limited by
process considerations but
only by the quality of DAO and
asphaltenes products
Nominal b.p. of
heaviest recovered
components
1050 F (566 C). Design
enhancements allow some-
what deeper cut.
1200 F (649 C) or higher,
limited only by product quality
Metallurgy High TAN crudes require
upgraded metallurgy
Due to low temperature in the
key process steps, higher TAN
crudes do not require upgraded
metallurgy
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Cases 2A and 2M (Figure 5): Similar configuration as
base with a ROSE unit added to process VTB.
Cases 3A and 3M (Figure 6): Similar as base except
that VDU is replaced with a ROSE. The ROSE feed is
ATB.
Feed and product pricing
Prices for the feedstocks and primary products are listed in
Table 2.
ROSE yields
For this study, the ROSE yields were limited so that the
asphaltenes to be processed in the downstream coker were
limited to 38% Conradson Carbon. This resulted in DAO
quality acceptable for processing in FCC feed hydrotreater
(CFHT). Operating and capital costs for CFHT were
adjusted for feed quality. Table 3 summarises the ROSE
unit yields, feed and product qualities.
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Refinery balance and product yields
The yields and product quality from each unit were
estimated considering the quality of the feed. For each
case a renery wide balance was prepared using a renery
simulation software package that also allowed estimates
of the utilities and blending of the nished products to
specied quality. The simulation results were used to
compare the economic merits of each case.
The renery product yields for the Arab heavy cases
are listed in Table 4 (this information is not shown for the
Maya cases but the pattern is similar). The main differences
in the overall yields are related to the amount of FCC feed
variations that result because of extra DAO recovered by
ROSE. The incremental liquid yield for ROSE cases is at
the cost of petroleum coke and the fact that incremental
DAO when processed through FCC results in over 100%
liquid yields. For Arab heavy, the ROSE units provide more
incremental FCC feed than for Maya and the net renery
product slate improvement is more with Arab
heavy.
Economics
Arab heavy
Table 5 shows the renery operating prots for
each case as well as the incremental investments
required over the base case 1A. Case 2A has
US$ 52 million/yr higher margin than base
primarily due to increased yield of liquid
products. The incremental capital for case 2A is
US$ 147 million; primarily due to the addition
of ROSE and added investments due to larger
downstream units. For FCC feed hydrotreater,
the quality of the feed was an additional reason
for higher investment. The incremental prot for
Case 2A over Case 1A pays out for investment in
2.8 years.
The economics are even better for Case
3A as the incremental investment over Case
1A is smaller (US$ 66 million); the savings
from elimination of the vacuum unit more than
offsetting the investment in a larger ROSE unit.
The 1.2 year payout over Case 1A is better for
this ATB ROSE option than for Case 2A. The
yields and operating margins for Case 3A are
similar to that of Case 2A.
Maya
Table 6 shows the economics when processing
Maya crude. The ATB ROSE (Case 3M) with
a payout of 2.4 years over Case 1M is more
attractive than VTB ROSE (Case 2M). Compared
to the corresponding Arab heavy ROSE cases,
Maya economics are less attractive primarily
due to the fact that ROSE did not increase the
FCC feed amount as much (limited by ROSE
asphaltenes concarbon) and thus the renery
liquid product yields were less improved than for
Arab heavy.
Revamp/expansion
considerations
Options for a grassroots facility were considered
in the case study presented here in order to
Table 4. Product rates, Arab Heavy
Case 1A
No ROSE
Cases 2A
VTB ROSE
Cases 3A
ATB ROSE
LPG ('000 bpd) 17 18 18
Gasoline ('000 bpd) 95 101 101
Diesel ('000 bpd) 73 69 69
# 6 fuel oil ('000 bpd) 6 7 7
Total Liq. ('000 bpd) 190 195 195
V% crd. 95.0 97.5 97.5
Coke (million tpd) 2702 2136 2136
Sulfur (million tpd) 517 544 544
Table 2. Prices for feedstocks and primary products (US$/bbl)
Benchmark WTI crude 60.00
Arab heavy crude 50.50
Maya crude 46.75
Natural gas (for utilities) 7 (US$/million btu)
Gasoline (RBOB) 68.34
Diesel 66.70
Table 3. ROSE yield and quality
Case 2A
AH VTB
Cases 3A
AH ATB
Case 2M
Maya VTB
Cases 3M
Maya ATB
FEED
Rate ('000 bpd) 49.7 103.3 63.6 116.9
API 3.2 11.5 -0.2 7.6
CCR (%) 23.8 12.4 31.2 18.3
Metals (ppmw) 251 129 816 477
DAO PROD.
Rate ('000 bpd) 23.3 76.8 14.5 67.7
API 13.4 18.1 17.9 18.0
CCR (%) 6.0 2.2 4.4 1.5
Metals (ppmw) 9 3 8 6
PITCH PROD.
Rate ('000 bpd) 26.5 26.5 49.1 49.1
API -4.7 -4.7 -4.7 -4.7
CCR (%) 38 38 38 38
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make clear comparisons of the yields, operating margins,
investment and economics. However, the benets of
recovering more FCC (or other conversion process) feed
from residues could be signicant in existing facilities
for the same reasons discussed in the case study. Each
renery has different sets of constraints and economic
drivers; it is difcult, therefore, to discuss in this
article the best way to utilise the ROSE unit to
provide incremental yield for the conversion units.
However, there are many possible ways a ROSE
unit would t in the existing renery with or without
the addition of new conversion units while still
meeting the constraints of the existing units.
Conclusion
Solvent extraction of VTBs offers an economical
route to recovering more value from heavy crude
oils by recovering more FCC feed while maintaining
the quality of feeds to other units (such as CFHT,
FCC and coker) in the renery. The overall renery
product yields and operating margin of a VDU and
ROSE combination can be achieved with a lower
capital when ROSE, without the vacuum tower,
is used to process ATBs. The margin contributed
by the addition of ROSE is the highest for crudes
for which the DAO yield can be maximised while
staying within the limits of feed qualities for
downstream units. While in this case study the
gas oil conversion unit was an FCC, economic
advantage could also be realised when the DAO is
the feed to a hydrocracker.
The results presented in this article for a grassroots
facility are also applicable for many revamp situations
where the addition of residue processing capacity may
open up opportunities for a heavier but cheaper renery
crude slate.
Table 5. Profitability, Arab heavy
Case 1A
No ROSE
Cases 2A
VTB ROSE
Case 3A
ATB ROSE
Product - Feed -
Utilities
US$/bbl crd. 10.32 11.06 11.11
US$ million/yr 722 774 778
Incremental margin over case 1A - 52 56
Incremental capital over case 1A
(US$ million/yr)
- 147 66
Payout over case 1A (years) - 2.8 1.2
Table 6. Profitability, Maya
Case 1M
No ROSE
Cases 2M
VTB ROSE
Cases 3M
ATB ROSE
Product - Feed -
Utilities
US$/bbl crd. 11.83 12.28 12.34
(US$ million/yr) 828 860 864
Incremental margin over case 1M
(US$ million/yr)
- 31 35
Incremental capital over case 1M
(US$ million/yr)
- 161 86
Payout over case 1M (years) - 5.1 2.4