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Publication > Issue > Articles

Weighing up the options

Summary

A. F. Slavens and C. Jorgensen of Black & Veatch discuss options for improving the sulphur recovery efficiency of existing sulphur recovery facilities.

Abstract

Environmental agencies continue to impose increasingly stringent sulphur dioxide emissions restrictions on oil and gas processing facilities. As a result, processors have seen sulphur plant recovery efficiency requirements increase from levels that can be achieved via employment of conventional modified-Claus technology (94-97%), to values in excess of 99.9%, often leading processors to consider the addition of new tail gas treating facilities downstream of existing sulphur recovery facilities. Installation of a new, amine-based TGTU downstream of an existing SRU can be readily implemented; however, integration of the additional downstream unit often creates various concerns such as, decreased SRU capacity due to increased system pressure drop, increased potential for operational and reliability upsets, and potential plot space limitations and layout challenges.

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Quality is the key for Bapco

Summary

The Bahrain Petroleum Company has upped its sulphur production via a refinery expansion to produce ultra-low sulphur diesel and associated new Sandvik sulphur forming plant. Sulphur visited Bahrain to see the new unit the most modern solidification and handling plant in operation.

Abstract

The Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco) operates a large refinery complex at Sitra, on the east coast of Bahrain. The refinery site is in fact one of the oldest in the Middle East, originally founded in 1936 by Standard Oil of California (now Chevron), although 100% owned by the Kingdom of Bahrain since 1997. Crude oil processing capacity at Sitra currently stands at about 270,000 bbl/day after recent upgrades.

Bahrain discovered oil early, in the 1920s, and was a major producer by the 1950s. As a result the country’s domestic oil production passed its peak at 77,000 bbl/day in 1977 and has been in slow but steady decline since then. It averages around 35-40,000 bbl/day at present. The country now also shares production at the offshore Abu Safah field with Saudi Arabia, but most of the oil processed at Sitra these days arrives from Dharan in Saudi Arabia, across the causeway from Bahrain, via a 45km pipeline. In the words of Bapco’s Essa al-Ansari, Acting General Manager of Major Engineering Projects, “like most refiners these days, we live on the margin.” Around 235,000 bbl/day of medium-sulphur crude (sulphur content around 2.7%) arrives this way, with the remainder coming from Bahrain’s domestic production. Bahrain’s crude is of similar quality to that from Saudi Arabia, with a sulphur content of around 3%.

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Meeting targets with activated carbon

Summary

Saudi Aramco has achieved excellent performance when using activated carbon to deal with the problem of high levels of BTX in the acid gas feed to the sulphur recovery units at Uthmaniyah Gas Plant. M. H. Al-Abdullatif and M. A. Al-Ghamdi discuss Saudi Aramco best practices in operating these carbon beds, such as performance test procedure, maximising adsorption efficiency, and lab assessment of Claus catalyst and activated carbon condition after two years in operation.

Abstract

For years Saudi Aramco faced rapid and chronic Claus catalyst deactivation induced by aromatics (BTX) in feed acid gas (lean acid gas). This catalyst deactivation resulted in low sulphur recovery and frequent shutdowns to replace the catalyst. After completing an exhaustive process selection study to identify the most cost effective solution to the problem, the company proceeded with installation of regenerable activated carbon beds upstream of sulphur recovery units (SRUs) to remove aromatics contaminants before they reach the converter beds.

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Ideas for better cleanup

Summary

Higher sulphur recovery efficiency, lower capital and operating costs, greater flexibility and lower CO2 emissions are some of the many factors influencing the latest new process concepts and enhanced process designs for Claus tail gas treating. Lisa Connock reports on how these objectives are being achieved using the latest technology and catalysts.

Abstract

Higher sulphur recovery efficiency, lower capital and operating costs, greater flexibility and lower CO2 emissions are some of the many factors influencing the latest new process concepts and enhanced process designs for Claus tail gas treating. Lisa Connock reports on how these objectives are being achieved using the latest technology and catalysts.

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The challenges facing refiners

Summary

A variety of factors are continuing to conspire to make life complicated for refiners, from environmental legislation to changing demand and product slates.

Abstract

The global refining industry continues to have to deal with several competing pressures from environmental and regulatory concerns on the one hand and changes in the way that the industry is structured.

One of the major challenges that refiners face is that of changing product de­mand. Demand is changing both in terms of product mix and the location of that demand. Historically, refining capacity has been dominated by Western Europe and North America, but the past decades have seen the beginning of the emergence of major new centres of production across the Middle East and Asia. Demand for refined products is continuing to increase in Asia, while in Europe and the US it remains relatively steady, with only modest increases. This is a long-term trend; demand for refined products has increased by only about 15-20% in Western Europe and the US over the past 30 years, while it nearly tripled in the rest of the world during that time.

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Sulphur in South Korea

Summary

SK Inchon's new refinery hydrocracker project will expand South Korea's sulphur production capacity by 20%. David Hayes reports.

Abstract

SK Inchon Oil Refinery recently commissioned a second hydrocracker unit at its Ulsan oil refinery in the southeast of the Korean peninsular, expanding South Korea’s total annual sulphur production capacity by 20%. The hydrocracker – a residue fluid catalytic cracking (RFCC) unit, was completed on schedule ready to start up commercial production in June 2008.

SK Inchon Oil’s RFCC No 2 unit has been built to produce a range of premium refined products including diesel, gasoline and propylene. The new light to medium distillate products are being made mostly for export to countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Smelter acid: what now after the market meltdown?

Summary

A look at the prospects for smelter acid production in the light of increased copper smelting and the production of other metals.

Abstract

The global commodity boom came to an exceptionally brutal end in the third quarter of 2008. Although the aftershocks have continued into 2009, the end of this latest commodity cycle followed historic patterns in one key aspect, as it again took the form of a demand side shock. Global markets were in a state of shock for much of the final quarter of 2008, but the implications for the sulphur and sulphuric acid sectors are now beginning to become clearer.

Production of sulphur-in-all-forms is driven mainly by the demand for hydrocarbon fuels and base metals. There is no clear correlation between the level of output of recovered sulphur and smelter acid, and the demand for these products. This has historically made markets for sulphuric acid highly volatile, in which the possibility of major short-term variations in the balance of sulphuric acid production and demand was never far away. Longer-term structural changes have also influenced the prices of sulphur and merchant sulphuric acid.

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Sulphur recovery plant

Summary

Sulphur's survey of recent, current and future construction projects maps the developing shape of brimstone production from fuel processing plants worldwide.

Abstract

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