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Crude oil refining process

Crude oil refining process

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Published by: papasky on Apr 07, 2011
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Refining crude oil to produce the lifeblood of a nation 
A simple concept supporting a sophisticated technological industry.
IntroductionIn order to appreciate the importance of the New Zealand Refining Company to our Nation, youmust first understand the many ways in which refined oil products drive out industries andenhance out lifestyle.Oil is a gift from Nature. By taking this valuable and illusive resource in it natural form – crudeoil – and placing it through a series of sophisticated processes, many quality products for everyday use are created.We are fortunate in having an oil refinery here in New Zealand – one of the most modern in theworld, at Marsden Point. It means that we can produce top grade petroleum products fromcrude oil without being dependent on expensive imported refined products.What is crude oil?Crude oil is a mixture of a vast number of different compounds which contain predominantlyhydrogen and carbon (hydrocarbons) associated with small quantities of other elements (forexample sulphur).Why is crude oil refined?The objective of refining is to convert crude oil into products as cheaply and efficiently aspossible, while meeting all required industry and national specifications. These products are:
Motor gasoline
Gas Oil
Fuel Oils
What are the steps of refining?Each oil refining step can be classed as either:
A. SeparationB. ConversionC. PurificationD. Separation
Processing crude oil in the Refinery starts with distillation. (this process is covered in detail inour Information brochure). This is a physical separation process which is undertaken underdifferent conditions as shown on the block flow scheme Fig. 1 by CD1 & 2 and HVU-2.
Another physical separation process is the Butane Deasphalting Unit (BDU). This solventextraction process makes a separation between distillate-type and asphaltic compounds of theshort residue. Solvent extraction is a more suitable process that high vacuum flashing where, inorder to avoid thermal cracking (temperature decomposition), impractically low pressures orhigh temperatures would have to be used.In the Butane Deasphalting process, short residue form a high vacuum distillation unit iscontacted with liquid butane under specified temperature and pressure conditions. Butane hasbeen selected as the optimum solvent because it provided the highest deasphalted oil yield withgood selectability at low solvent-to-feed ratios. The butane easily dissolves the lower boilinghydrocarbons, but its solvent power is limited with respect to the higher boiling hydrocarbons,especially aromatic and asphaltic compounds. The butane and short residue are mixed in anextraction column at conditions close to the critical point of butane.Two liquid phases are formed, one rich in butane containing the extracted oil (Deasphalted Oil -DAO) the other of asphaltic compound with little butane and oil content (ASPHALT).The extraction column operates isothermally, the butane-rich phase being continuous and theasphaltic phase as dispersed droplets. The density difference between the phases drives thedispersed phase downwards in a countercurrent flow to the continuous phase, so that aninterface level is formed in the bottom.The extractor has perforated trays to enhance the contacting of the two liquid phases and thebutane solvent is recovered from the two phases (DAO and ASPHALT) by flashing andstripping, to be recycled for reuse.The DAO, along with the waxy distillate, is fed to the Hydrocracker. The asphalt is used asRefinery fuel or blended with gas oil to make fuel oils.
E. Conversion (Upgrading)
The refining of oil into desirable products also uses catalytic upgrading techniques, wherechemical reaction with associated energy change results in products of better quality.Several types of conversion processes are used.
The removal of sulphur from oil products by
through converting sulphurcompounds to hydrogen sulphide over a catalyst in the presence of hydrogen.
Catalytic reforming
is restructuring of the oil molecules by aromisation and isomerisationendothermic reactions over a platinum catalyst (Platforming).
The manufacture of bitumen uses the
Air blowing
technique of oxidation and polymerisationto produce a “harder” product.These processes are indicated in the refinery block flow scheme Fig. 1 as HDT, KHT and HDS,PLAT and BITUMEN.There are other conversion processes in the Refinery which came as part of the expansion.The
process is a large complex of many units, which converts waxy distillateand deasphalted oil (DAO) into predominantly kerosine and gas oil. The process id the 2-stageShell Hydrocracking system (Hydrocracker in fig. 1) and achieves almost 100% conversion.
Different catalysts are used in various stages. The first stage of the process reduces thenitrogen, sulphur and oxygen content for protection of the second stage catalyst.The second stage is predominantly hydrocracking.The principle reactions occurring are:
Stage 2
Denitrogenation HydrogenationDesulphurisation HydrocrackingDeoxygenation IsomerisationHydrogenationHydrocrackingIsomerisationThese reactions are exothermic and al consume hydrogen (except isomerisation). Themolecular types found Hydrocracker feedstock include:ParaffinsNaphthenesAromaticsExamples of the different reactions in the complex Hydrocracking process follows:1.
is the rupture of the carbon-nitrogen bonds with the formation of ammonia.2.
is the rupture of the carbon-sulphur bonds with the formation of hydrogensulphide.3.
is the rupture of the carbon-oxygen bonds with the formation of water.4.
is the saturation of the carbon-carbon double bonds.5.
is the splitting or breaking of straight of cyclic hydrocarbon andhydrogenation of the ruptured bonds.6.
is the modifying of a compound by rearrangement of its atoms.7.
All the foregoing reactions yield more or less useful products. A lessdesirable but important reaction is the condensation of aromatics to produce largeunsaturated polyaromatics which deposit on the catalyst for form coke.Polyaromatics are much more susceptible to this reaction than monoaromtics. Hence, shouldthe feedstock contain a high amount of polyaromatic asphaltenes, then rapid catalystdeactivation due to coke laydown will occur.
Heat of Reaction
The foregoing reactions are predominantly exothermic. The heat released is absorbed byinjecting cold hydrogen quench gas between the catalyst beds. With out the quench, the heatreleased would generate high temperatures and rapid reactions leading to greater heat releaseand an eventual runaway.

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