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Leuna refinery belongs to the 21 st Century

Summary

The new Leuna refinery in Germany is designed to meet tough, new binding EU limits on sulphur and benzene content in petrol and diesel set for the year 2000 and eyen stricer targets for 2005. Report by Jason Stevens.

Abstract

The huge grassroots project looks set to transfonn the refining situation in the new Gennan BundesHinder, but has not been without controversy. Detractors question the need for building refining capacity in Europe during a period of low utilization and dismal margins. Allied to this has been claims that costs were overstated in order to get higher subsidies, which Elf Antar, the project driving force, has vehemently denied. Despite this, industry players all agree that Leuna is something special when it comes to advanced technology which is compatible with the environment. Due to severe Gennan environmental regulations Elf Antar and the various contractors connected to the refinery have gone beyond the necessary to ensure its operations remain 'green' and ruthlessly efficient. This was made clear in a presentation delivered by Jean-Paul Lemonde, refining director of Elf Antar, France and Patrick Guerard, engineering director at Mitteldeutsche ErdoRaffinerie GmbH (MIDER) at the 1997 European Oil Refining Conference and Exhibition in Portugal.

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New SRUs form part of Polish refinery's modernisation strategy

Summary

Rafineria Gdanska - Gdansk Refinery is planning to install two new Claus units with tail gas treatment by 1999. The sulphur production, however, will do no more than marginally offset the recent sharp fall in the country's Frasch production. Roger Manser reports.

Abstract

Gdansk Refinery is investing in the sulphur recovery units as part of a major modernisation programme. It is doing this for four inter-related reasons, the refinery says. These are:

  • to improve profits by increasing its conversion capacity; this includes an increase in the volume of higher margin products, such as low sulphur diesel.
  • to improve energy efficiency.
  • to meet the country's and the EU's stiffer requirements for the sulphur content of diesel; and
  • to meet local environmental standards - to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide per tonne of processed crude.

The move is also necessary as the company, which is still state owned, expects to be partially privatised over the next year or so. It needs to show potential investors that it is modern, alert to the needs of the market, and well-managed. Indeed, it is relatively modern, and thus contrasts with many of the country's other heavy industrial installations.

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Chasing the elusive last 1or 2%

Summary

As the authorities demand ever increasing standards of cleanliness, efficiency, reliability and durability become ever more important prerequisites of sulphur plant catalysts.

Abstract

Born as a simple method of simultaneously cleaning up a dirty waste and recovering a useful by-product, the Claus sulphur recovery process has been regarded for much of its 114-year history as little better than a figurative trash can for dirty gases from whatever refinery, gas plant or chemical works it is associated with: something that operators would much rather not need to have but usually cannot do without. But in recent years it has had to shake off its decidedly "low-tech" image on account of growing demands by the authorities on the public's behalf for the highest possible standards in the abatement of atmospheric releases of sulphur compounds. Today it is one of the most intensively researched industrial processes and, in consequence, it is now capable, under favourable conditions, of clean-up performance to a standard which, 10 or 15 years ago, could only be achieved if the tail gas was further processed in additional facilities utilizing a different kind of process, often at disproportionate expense.

But what we refer to today as the Claus process (which has, in fact, developed out of a later modification of C. F. Claus's original concept of 1883) is nowhere near perfect yet not by a long chalk. Nor, in fact, can it ever be, on account of the fundamental chemistry of the reactions that it uses. To begin with, the first stage is a flame in a furnace, and in spite of the excellent studies that have been made over recent years by organizations such as Alberta Sulphur Research and Bovar Western Research, we are really only beginning to unravel the secret of just what is going on in that flame. (It is actually a rather sobering thought that the development of Claus furnace and burner design over so many years has been almost entirely empirical, with very little in the way of sound theoretical basis).

In most Claus plants, around 60% of the elemental sulphur produced originates in the furnace and condenses in the ensuing cooling system. The remaining 40% (and the most important 40% from the environmental point of view) is generated in downstream catalytic stages. There again, things are still far from perfect. In comparison with that of the furnace, the chemistry of those stages is quite well understood. The problem is that the reactions by which the combined sulphur in the process gas is converted into the element are equilibria (in other words, at all times they go in both directions, the relative extent being governed by the conditions) and so, by definition, cannot ever go to completion.

It is with that part of the process that this article is concerned, and with the catalysts themselves in particular.

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Underground, overground...

Summary

As liquid sulphur pipelines become longer and longer, the reliability and effectiveness of their heating systems become even more critical. Skin Electric Current Tracing (SECT) offers a competitive alternative to more conventional pipeline heating methods. Tom Evans takes a closer look.

Abstract

The transport of liquid sulphur through heated pipelines within the process plant or refinery has been carried out successfully for many years. Today, there are also a small number of pipelines operating successfully to transport liquid sulphur over long distances, some in excess of 40 km in length. Some of the longer lines include the liquid heat traced line from Shell's Caroline, Alberta sour gas processing plant to the sulphur forming facility at Shantz; the high mountain line in the Wyoming overthrust sour gas field; and Saudi Aramco's Berri to the Jubail marine terminal in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia.

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