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Publication > Issue > Articles

50 years of looking ­forward

Summary

British Sulphur has spent a year celebrating 50 years of service to the sulphur and sulphuric acid industries. When the organisation was very young, the world was short of sulphur. Most importantly from British Sulphur's point of view, there was a shortage of information about sulphur production and markets. Chris Cunningham charts the half century of an organisation that maintains a central role in the progress of the sulphur-all-forms business.

Abstract

The question arises often enough, so after 50 years of British Sul­phur history it’s probably time to explain how the various pieces of this organisation fit together. British Sul­phur Consultants is the chemicals division of CRU International, whilst British Sulphur Publishing, producer of Sulphur and its sister publications as well as the Sulphur conference series, is the chemicals arm of CRU Publishing. So where does the Sul­phur Exploration Syndi­cate fit in?

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BP tests new low ­sulphur gasoline ­technology

Summary

BP has developed new gasoline desulphurisation technology that has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of producing low sulphur gasolines to meet current and future environmental legislation.

Abstract

Gasoline is a blend of many different refinery streams. The principle components are fluid catalytically cracked naphtha from the fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) and reformate from the catalytic reformer. Catalytic cracking is a highly profitable process which converts low valued heavy fuel oil component into gas oil, gasoline and lighter components. Reforming converts lower octane light boiling fractions from the crude oil distillation unit into high octane material.

FCCU naphtha is highly olefinic and reformate is highly aromatic. The levels of olefins and aromatics in gasoline are being progressively reduced, along with sulphur, because of their adverse effect on emissions from vehicle exhausts. Olefins in particular increase coke deposition in engines. Increasingly, alkylate, formed from FCCU butenes and propenes, and isomerate, formed from saturated C5/C6 hydrocarbons, are being used to dilute olefins, aromatics and sulphur in refinery gasoline. Oxygenates and naphthas from thermal cracking processes are also present in gasoline in smaller quantities.

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Oil sands bonanza

Summary

Just as Canada is set to become the world's leading producer of sulphur, mainly from gas, the nation's energy companies are preparing to dig deeper and wider for high-sulphur bitumen. Chris Cunningham reports.

Abstract

Perhaps still better known around the world for the scale of its surface mining equipment – enormous dump trucks and drag lines that disappear into the distance – than for its impact on the energy markets, Canada’s oil sands industry is going through a big step change.

During the past year, in a trend that accelerated toward the end of 2000, companies principally associated with oil sands operations over the years have announced or completed significant expansion in their bitumen producing activities. Similarly, several companies have begun the construction of new upgrader sites which will convert heavy bitumen into synthetic crude oil (‘syncrude’) for refining into low-sulphur gasoline and other products. Alternatively they have an­nounced plans – in one or two cases tentative plans – to build upgraders.

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Ensuring uniform heat distribution in ­sulphur vapour lines

Summary

Uniform temperature distribution in sulphur pipeline walls can be achieved by applying heating elements which are strategically positioned using accurate thermodynamic process modelling software. A well-designed system protects the process from interruptions caused by corrosion or blockage of the pipeline. David R. Hornbaker of Controls Southeast, Inc. reports on a typical case in point.

Abstract

Certain hot process piping services require thermal maintenance devices to keep stream temperatures within design limits. In such cases conventional pipe jacketing has been regarded as sufficient but often too expensive. An alternative to pipe jacketing, tube tracing, does not effectively prevent problems caused by temperature variations along the pro­cess pipe wall. Frequently, tube tracing is used as an economical way to try and compensate for heat loss. In low temperature applications with broad temperature envelopes, steam tracing can be effective. However, in those applications, the position of the tracers, and the temperature distribution in the pipe material are not considered important. A new system for process temperature maintenance or uniform pipe wall temperatures, comparable in price to tube tracing, consists of contoured, bolt-on trace elements. These elements are strategically positioned after modelling heat dynamics in the operating piping system. In dealing with the actual problems caused by unwanted heat variation, frequently the key principle is assuring uniform pipe wall temperature. To assure uniformity, it is necessary to manage the heat distribution in the pipe wall. Proper management of heat distribution depends on the number and placement of heating elements. This placement in turn depends on accurate modelling of process thermodynamics. Therefore, the heating element vendor should apply accurate process modelling software to assure uniform pipe wall temperature.

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Acid gas re-injection reduces sulphur burden

Summary

Acid gas re-injection has the potential to slow down the ever increasing stockpile of world sulphur. Lisa Connock reports on the practice of acid gas re-injection as an alternative to sulphur recovery by the Claus process. A new concept involving the injection of SO2 into a sour reservoir is also presented.

Abstract

Sulphur supply is dominated by recovered sulphur, a trend that is set to continue for as long as oil and gas remain our primary energy sources. Over the past decade, environmental pressure has driven desulphurisation technology to the point where elemental sulphur recovery has exceeded world demand, with the result that large tonnages of sulphur are being poured into block storage throughout the world. Developments of sour gas in Canada, the Middle East and the Caspian Basin and of oil sands in Canada and Venezuela have the potential to push the oversupply beyond manageable proportions. Consequently there is a real need to pursue the development of new technologies to provide environmentally benign methods for producing gas without adding to the sulphur surplus.

In most cases, re-injection is not feasible for acid gas produced in refineries. Thus utilisation of crude oils with ever-increasing quantities of combined sulphur will add further to the world sulphur surplus. Tengiz­chevroil, on the other hand, is currently conducting feasibility studies on the re-injection of sour gas into the Tengiz reservoir. Mark Heinemann, Manager, Commercial Development at Chevron Products Company, informed Sulphur that processing facilities required to separate sour gas from Tengiz crude and to re-inject it are simpler than the facilities required to fully process the gas as is currently done at Tengiz. Further, re-injecting the sour gas reduces the risk of oil production curtailment due of environmental, marketing or transportation constraints associated with handling gas, LPG and sulphur. Re-injecting sour gas also preserves reservoir energy, thereby reducing well production decline rates and increasing oil recovery

Current re-injection studies in­clude subsurface engineering analyses to better understand anticipated reservoir response to sour gas re-injection as well as mechanical studies related to compressor and injection well design issues. This work is being pursued on a timeframe which is consistent with Tengizchevroil growth plans.

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