Oil-to-Chemicals: Technological Approaches and Advanced Process Configurations
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Oil-to-Chemicals: Technological Approaches and Advanced Process Configurations

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Direct Oil-to-Chemicals (O-t-C) Conversion to Increase as Imbalances Between Fuels
and Petrochemicals Expand;
Investments Beyond the Majors to Intensify


Oil-to-Chemicals: Technological Approaches and Advanced Process Configurations

Refiners and petrochemical producers who gathered at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the AFPM (Mar. 11-13 in New Orleans) got the following messages: (1) Refiners who only think about transportation fuels production must think differently; and (2) Standalone producers of chemicals (i.e., olefins, aromatics) really do have the opportunity to break free from buying naphtha as the only feedstock at lower cost. Beyond that, integrated refinery/chemicals producers (and the trend of more will continue) need to question the conventional wisdom that a complex 400,000 BPSD refinery, coupled with a 2-3 MIL Mt/yr steam cracker with its high CAPEX, is the best solution. FEED studies need to be more innovative in their thinking!  If you already have plant site investments in place, there are better margin and lower cost retrofits that need to be taken into consideration, while simultaneously improving your chemicals production and site margins.

In its groundbreaking multi-client study entitled “Oil-to-Chemicals: Technological Approaches and Advanced Process Configurations,” TCGR shows how both refineries and standalone chemicals producers can benefit from existing and pending new processes to achieve the objectives of improved margins, greater feedstock/process flexibility and “independence” from refinery swings.

ExxonMobil modified their steam cracker in Singapore to produce more ethylene/olefins (2014) and Saudi Aramco and SABIC have recently announced (2018) the award of the FEED contract to Wood for their JV in Saudi Arabia to design and build an oil-to-chemicals plant. Individually, they are taking two entirely different approaches; as an opportunity, open to all, it is clear there are numerous different approaches that are likely to be site-specific, depending on existing process investments, i.e. retrofit economics and the desired crude oil/feedstock chosen to be processed. An oil-to-chemicals SWOT analysis appears in Table 1 below.

Interestingly, many of the needed developments for the “oil-to-chemicals” approach are not new; in fact, they have been steadily evolving for over three decades. These include petrochemical FCC designs, e.g. the R2R-R2P design, UOP-PetroFCC or Axens-HSFCC with metathesis or looking into swing fixed bed units like the AsahiKasei/TechnipFMC-OMEGA, Gasolfin, or Chiyoda processes. Investigation by majors into Oil-to-Chemicals (OtC) options has been quite extensive including Axens, BASF, CB&I, LyondellBasell (Equistar), Mitsui, Shell, UOP/Honeywell and many others (see Figure 1 below). As such, TCGR’s study contains numerous and novel concepts, ideas and practical suggestions on how to remain competitive over the next five to ten years.

Table 1. Oil-to-Chemicals (O-t-C): SWOT Analysis

Figure 1. Announced Crude to Chemicals Complexes

 Source: ExxonMobil, Crude to Chemicals Technology Solutions, July 2017 (with permission)

Additional information, including the complete study presentation, the actual (expanded/refined) Table of Contents and the Order Form, can be downloaded via the link below. For additional study details or to subscribe, please contact John J. Murphy at +1.215.628.4447 or John.J.Murphy@catalystgrp.com.

As it does in each of its industrially-focused multi-client studies, TCGR has sought input from “charter” subscribers to
help shape the report’s final scope/TofC by delineating areas of particular interest, including
the “cameo” technologies.

The Catalyst Group Resources (TCGR), a member of The Catalyst Group, is dedicated to monitoring and analyzing technical and commercial developments in catalysis as they apply to the global refining, petrochemical, fine/specialty chemical, pharmaceutical, polymer/elastomer and environmental industries.

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PRES Oil-to-Chemicals (December 2017)