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Publication > Issue > Articles

2014 Vienna Brimstone Sulfur Symposium

Summary

The Brimstone Sulfur Recovery Symposium is now a regular event in Europe, held each May at the Hotel Bristol in Vienna. Lisa Connock reports on this year's event.

Abstract

Brimstone STS Limited hosted its second annual Vienna Sufur Recovery Symposium on May 19-23, bringing together a good mix of engineers from operating companies, sulphur and amine experts, technology providers and academia. A varied programme featuring acid gas processing, sulphur recovery and tail gas treatment, interspersed with regular Q&A sessions generated some lively discussions. The extended Q&A sessions form an important part of the Brimstone Symposia, a time when everyone is encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions and share knowledge and experiences. Presentations on the latest research utilising modelling and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) featured strongly in the programme and safety and reliability issues were also a recurring theme. In addition, a pre-conference Amine Treating Seminar on Gas Treating Process Performance, presented by Optimized Gas Treating, was held on May 19. Keywords: catalyst, amine systems, Habshan 5, Thessaloniki Refinery, oxygen enrichment, CFD, safety

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Safer monitoring of sulphur flow

Summary

Jim Hartman of Controls Southeast Inc. (CSI) discusses the safety concerns with look boxes and sulphur seals in sulphur recovery units. Recent developments in sulphur sealing have led to new, safer alternatives to conventional look boxes and an improved above-ground sealing device.

Abstract

In sulphur recovery units (SRUs), “look boxes” are traditionally placed after the seal leg and before the sulphur pit or collection vessel. The purpose of the look box is to determine if the process is making sulphur and to provide a subjective indication of the flow rate. Operators develop an expectation of flow rate for each condenser position and verify it with the look box. While in use for many years, the look boxes are a source for safety concern. Because the look box allows the operator to be directly exposed to the process, the possibility for harm exists. Inside the box, dangerous H2S vapours can accumulate. When the operator opens the box, they can be exposed to these fumes. According to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “A level of H2S gas at or above 100 ppm is immediately dangerous to life and health”1. To prevent injuries from gas exposure, some refiners require the operators to use a self-contained breathing apparatus (commonly known as “fresh air”) when opening look boxes. This adds time to the operation and is inconvenient. Keywords: SxSeal 2000, SxView

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Sour water stripping Part 2: Phenolic water

Summary

In addition to ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, and carbon dioxide, phenolic sour water may contain a host of so-called heat stable salts (HSSs), hydrogen cyanide, and phenols. The presence of these components can adversely affect the ability to strip ammonia and H2S. One way to obviate the effect of such compounds is to neutralise them by the careful use of caustic soda. In this article N.A. Hatcher, C.E. Jones and R.H. Weiland of Optimized Gas Treating focus on how HSSs affect sour water stripping and how trying to spring ammonia by neutralising them with caustic affects performance.

Abstract

Sour water is generally classified as either phenolic or non-phenolic. Non-phenolic water, also called HDS water because it is produced by hydrotreating in hydrodesulphurisation or HDS units in refineries, contains almost exclusively ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, and possibly a trace of carbon dioxide. Sources of non-phenolic sour water, sour water chemistry, phase equilibrium in sour water systems, and the removal of contaminants in sour water strippers (SWS) were all addressed in Part 1 of this series1. Phenolic (or more broadly, non-HDS) water typically contains heat stable salts (HSSs) and HCN, although phenols and caustic may also be present, depending on how the water has been used in the refinery. Coal derived gas can be quite high in both ammonia and hydrogen cyanide, and coke oven gas is especially high in these components. Keywords: heat stable salts, caustic neutralisation, sour water

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Project definition is key to success

Summary

Simon Carves, MECS, Chemetics and Outotec provide an insight into the many factors that have to be considered and evaluated when building a sulphuric plant. Getting the details right in the project definition phase pays dividends and is a major contributing factor to the success of a project.

Abstract

The decision to construct a sulphuric acid plant can have many project drivers1. The sulphuric acid to be produced may be for external sale with little or no internal demand, probably including several grades of commercial acid and possibly weak battery acid, a number of strengths of oleum, liquid sulphur dioxide, liquid sulphur trioxide and ultra-pure electronic grade acid. The raw material for the sulphuric acid plant may be sulphur, spent sulphuric acid or sulphur dioxide. Keywords: energy, plant reliability, site location, material costs, labour, commissioning, plant size, transport

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SRU turndown issues

Summary

WorleyParsons, Jacobs and KT – Kinetics Technology discuss key design and operation issues when operating SRUs at low turndown. Case histories, operation guidelines and lessons learned are presented.

Abstract

Jacobs turndown design and experience There are several reasons to operate an SRU at a lower throughput than its design value: there may not be enough acid gas, or there may be a problem downstream of the SRU that limits sulphur production. A turndown situation also occurs during drying of wet refractory. Putting too much heat into it may cause damage, so the burner has to be turned down. The so-called turndown capabilities of the SRU may limit the lowest throughput that can be reliably handled. Jacobs routinely uses premix high intensity burners as the Claus main burner. To prevent backfiring there has to be a minimum flow of the gas/air mixture through the air nose of the burner (the burner port). This is conveniently achieved by requiring a minimum pressure drop of combustion air over the burner. In practice this requirement limits the burner turndown to 10%. However, for drying out this may still be too much. Jacobs does not design special burners for drying out and advises operating the burner at maximum air to fuel ratio. With this setup a smooth heat up curve can be achieved.  Keywords: refractory, burner efficiency, condenser, co-firing, reaction furnace temperature, H2 enrichment

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ASRL – 50 years of sulphur R&D at the University of Calgary

Summary

As the organisation celebrates its fiftieth year, Peter Clark, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Calgary and Director of Research for Alberta Sulphur Research Ltd looks back at the founding of ASRL, and where our continuing requirements for fertilizer and hydrocarbons may take us in the future.

Abstract

This year, ASRL celebrates its 50th anniversary. In 1964, when Dr. Jim Hyne and a group of industrialists in Calgary formed ASRL, it probably seemed unlikely that a research organisation born out of inquiries to the Department of Chemistry at the Calgary campus of the University of Alberta would be needed for 50 years. At that time, deep sour gas was being found in many reservoirs in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with methane yields and production rates that were too large to ignore. But what could be done with all of the H2S that came along with it? The experience gained in development of the Lacq sour gas reservoir near Pau in southwestern France in the mid 1950s meant that small Central Alberta hamlets suddenly became home to “sour” French engineers building sulphur plants the size of which had not been contemplated previously. Fine wine, escargot and espressos were tough to find in the dining establishments of Rocky Mountain House! Soon, engineers were confronted with many types of chemistry they had not seen before, and, there was the small matter of a few million tons of solid sulphur that no one seemed to be interested in buying. Clearly, there would be chemists at the University of Calgary who could help. ASRL’s original eight founding companies were the California Standard Company, Canadian Fina Oil, Home Oil Company, Hudson’s Bay Oil and Gas Company Ltd, Imperial Oil Ltd, Pacific Petroleums Ltd, Shell Canada Ltd, and Texas Gulf Sulphur Co Inc. Keywords: PHOTOSYNTHESIS; POPULATION; PHOSPHATE; PHOSPHORUS; FRASCH

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Refining in Asia

Summary

New Asian mega-refineries and tightening standards on sulphur in fuels are leading to a substantial increase in sulphur output from Asia's refinery sector.

Abstract

Asian countries operate around 30 million bbl/d of processing capacity, up from just over 20 million bbl/d a decade ago, and by 2018 this is forecast to rise to 36 million bbl/d. The rapid rise of refining in Asia has come on the back of rapidly increasing domestic demand for petroleum products, mostly as a result of expanding vehicle use, especially in India and China. OPEC predicts that the global demand for oil, which stood at 89 million bbl/d in 2012, will rise to 109 million bbl/d by 2035, and 88% of this rise will occur in the developing economies of Asia. This contrasts with demand in OECD countries where demand has general peaked and appears to be in long-term decline. This changing pattern of demand is leading to a gradual shift in refining capacity, away from Europe, North America and Pacific OECD countries (Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand) and towards large, populous and developing economies like India, China and Brazil, as well as the Middle East, which is taking advantage of its lead in feedstock costs. Other Asian countries are also looking to reduce domestic imports of refined products and develop their own refining capability. While the Middle East is accounting for about 20% of new refining capacity over the next few years, according to the International Energy Agency, Asia will represent 60% new refining capacity out to 2018. Keywords: INDIA; CHINA; SINGAPORE; THAILAND; MALAYSIA; VIETNAM; CAMBODIA; MYANMAR; DESULPHURISATION; OVERCAPACITY; CNPC; SINOPEC

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Central Asian sulphur

Summary

In spite of the current difficulties being faced by the Kashagan project, increased processing of sour gas and condensates from central Asia are likely to lead to significantly increased tonnages of sulphur from the region. What to do with this sulphur is a potential headache for regional producers, however.

Abstract

The central Asian region is home to considerable reserves of oil and gas, much of it sour. As global demand for oil and gas continues to increase, so has oil and gas processing within the region, and consequently large volumes of sulphur are also recovered. However, the region’s relative inaccessibility means that the prospects for exporting oil, gas and indeed sulphur depend very much on logistical concerns. Russia Russia has long been the major regional producer of sulphur, from oil, gas and condensate fields in the Orenburg and Astrakhan region. Both are run by subsidiaries of Russia’s state-run gas giant Gazprom; Gazprom dobycha Orenburg LLC (DBO) and Gazprom dobycha Astrakhan LLC (GDA), respectively. The gas processed at Orenburg averages around 1.8% hydrogen sulphide, and the Zailinsky gas processing plant also processes gas from just across the border which comes from the Karachaganak field in Kazakhstan, as detailed below. The facilities were developed together during the Soviet era and still work closely. Orenburg also produces major volumes of oil, some of which is processed at the local Orenburg refinery. Keywords: RUSSIA; KAZAKHSTAN; UZBEKISTAN; TURKMENISTAN; CASPIAN; ASTRAKHAN; ORENBURG; TENGIZ; KASHAGAN; NCOC; TCO; GAZPROM

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Sulphuric acid demand for metal leaching

Summary

Over the past couple of decades the rise of first copper and uranium and now nickel leaching have made this a rapidly expanding demand segment for sulphuric acid. But falling ore grades and oversupplied markets mean that this is a sector likely to soon reach its peak.

Abstract

A large variety of rocks are amenable to leaching processes of various types, with the leaching agent dependent on rock and metal chemistry. As well as sulphuric acid, other acids are used, also peroxides, cyanide (in gold leaching), alkalis etc. Acid – generally sulphuric acid – leaching is used in many types of rock processing, including rocks bearing lithium and rare earths, but in terms of acid volumes consumed, the main demand occurs in the production of base metals, especially copper and nickel, and also for extraction of uranium, where large volumes of rock must be processed in order to extract relatively modest amounts of the final metal oxide. The use of sulphuric acid leaching is limited by geology, and tends to be mainly used for extraction from oxide ores. This limits its use in the extraction of some base metals – zinc, for example, is mostly found as the sulphide (zinc blende),limiting the opportunities for zinc acid leaching, and indeed there is only a single large zinc solvent extraction/electrowinning (SX/EW) project, at Skorpion Zinc in Namibia. Conversely, all uranium is found in its oxide form, mainly as pitchblende. Copper and nickel fall in between, with about 20% of copper found in oxide ores amenable to leaching, while 75% of nickel is found as oxide ores (laterites). Keywords: COPPER; NICKEL; URANIUM; HPAL; ISL; IN SITU; AFRICA; ZAMBIA; SX/EW

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