You are on page 1of 25

Annual Meeting

March 23-25, 2014


Hyatt Regency Orlando
Orlando, FL

AM-14-43

Tracking and Auditing the Impact of New Crudes on


Refinery Operability and Profitability

Presented By:
M. Scott Green
KBC Advanced
Technologies
Houston, TX
Robert Ohmes
KBC Advanced
Technologies
Houston, TX
Ralph Goodrich
KBC Advanced
Technologies
Houston, TX
Mel Larson
KBC Advanced
Technologies
Houston, TX

American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers

1667 K Street, NW
Suite 700
Washington, DC
20006.3896

202.457.0480 voice
202.457.0486 fax

www.afpm.org

This paper has been reproduced for the author or authors as a courtesy by the American Fuel &
Petrochemical Manufacturers. Publication of this paper does not signify that the contents
necessarily reflect the opinions of the AFPM, its officers, directors, members, or staff. Requests
for authorization to quote or use the contents should be addressed directly to the author(s)

TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.0

Introduction ........................................................................................................ 3

2.0

Market Background ............................................................................................ 3

3.0

Primary Refinery Impact Areas ......................................................................... 6

4.0

Crude Quality ...................................................................................................... 7


4.1

Importance of Quality ............................................................................................. 8

4.2

Critical Stream Properties and Contaminants ......................................................... 9

4.3

Quality Measurement Obstacles........................................................................... 10

5.0

Tankage/Logistics/Crude Management .......................................................... 12

6.0

Crude Compatibility ......................................................................................... 13

7.0

Crude Unit Heat Recovery ............................................................................... 15

8.0

7.1

Exchanger Fouling and Design Consideration ...................................................... 15

7.2

Exchanger Performance Monitoring ..................................................................... 16

Assay Quality and LP Maintenance ................................................................ 18


8.1

Assay Quality ....................................................................................................... 18

8.2

LP Impacts ........................................................................................................... 18

8.3

LP Maintenance ................................................................................................... 19

9.0

Unit Process and Reliability Performance Monitoring .................................. 21

10.0

Conclusions ...................................................................................................... 21

11.0

Works Cited....................................................................................................... 23

LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1:

Net Imports to US of Distillate and Finished Gasoline1 ...................................... 3

Figure 2:

US Crude Oil Balance1 ...................................................................................... 4

Figure 3:

Brazilian Fuel Outlook1 ...................................................................................... 5

Figure 4:

US Refinery Capacity and Utilization1 ................................................................ 6

Figure 5:

LTO Overall Impacts .......................................................................................... 7

Figure 6:

US Class 1 Rail Cars of Crude Oil by Year(4) ................................................... 11

Figure 7:

Crude Compatibility Index vs. Blend % ............................................................ 15

Figure 8:

HX-Monitor Report ........................................................................................... 17

Figure 9:

HX Monitor Feed Temp Improvement Comparison .......................................... 17

Figure 10:

Petro-SIM Crude/Vacuum Simulation with LP Utility ........................................ 20

Figure 11:

LP Utility Swing Cuts ....................................................................................... 20

LIST OF TABLES
Table 1:

Key Stream Properties and Impacts .................................................................. 9

Table 2:

Crude Metals and Sources .............................................................................. 10

AM-14-43
Page 2

1.0

Introduction

The last several years have seen refiners looking to process new crude slates in their facilities,
whether it be light tight oils (LTOs) or opportunity crudes. Use of these crudes may be due to
availability of new crude sources or completion of minor and major plant modifications that allow
for processing alternate crudes. A significant undertaking in terms of manpower, analysis, and
capital is involved in evaluating the new crudes and completing projects for handling these new
sources.
Unfortunately, less effort is often spent understanding the resulting effects of the new crudes on
the facility once they are being processed than is spent on understanding their relative value.
This paper examines options and makes recommendations for tracking and mitigating the shortterm impact of alternate crude slates on the refinery. Furthermore, methodologies and practices
will be suggested to assess and manage the long-term physical impact of new crudes on the
plant, from both process and mechanical perspectives. That understanding is key to
incorporating the lessons and key findings into the regular business processes. Case examples
are utilized to illustrate the application of these techniques.

2.0

Market Background

The market impact of light and tight oils (LTO) is now being felt globally. The combination of
relatively flat product demand growth in the US, greatly discounted domestic crude costs, and
taxes and fees (e.g. RINS) has firmly moved the US from importing to exporting gasoline and
diesel blends. The US is now exporting jet fuel to Asia, gasoline to Africa and diesel/gasoil to
Latin America and EU markets. However, the US is also importing many of those finished and
related intermediate productsoften from the same countries.

US Net Imports
(Negative value indicates Export)

1000

500

kbpd

-500

-1000

Data source: US Energy Information Administration


Figure 1:

Net Imports to US of Distillate and Finished Gasoline

AM-14-43
Page 3

Jul-13

Jan-13

Jul-12

Jan-12

Jul-11

Jan-11

Jul-10

Jan-10

Jul-09

Jan-09

Jul-08

Jan-08

Jul-07

Jan-07

Jul-06

Jan-06

Jul-05

Jul-04

Jan-04

-1500

Jan-05

U.S. Net Imports of Distillate Fuel Oil 0 to 15 ppm Sulfur


U.S. Net Imports of Distillate Fuel Oil
U.S. Net Imports of Finished Motor Gasoline

One clear feature of the boom in US crude production is a virtual step-for-step reduction in
similar quality crude imports. This has directly affected imports of crudes such as light Nigeria or
Mexican Olmeca. The result has been an indirect easing in the rest of world (ROW) global
crude supply/demand balance. In turn, that has greatly affected crude pricing mechanisms
which, either directly or indirectly, typically price crude production against US based West Texas
Intermediate (WTI) or United Kingdom, Brent crude.

US Crude Oil Balance


Thousand Barrells per day

12000
10000
8000
6000
4000
2000

U.S. Field Production of Crude


Oil

Data source: US Energy Information


Administration
Figure 2:

Year
1

US Crude Oil Balance

The boom in LTO gas and crude is two-fold. First, the current and forecast long-term gas
oversupply relative to demand means that in the US energy intensive processes will continue to
enjoy lower cost of operations than direct competitors. In the refining business, KBC estimates
at least $1.50/bbl lower energy costs for similar complexity refiners in the US Gulf Coast vs.
North West Europe.
The second advantage of the LTO boom has been dramatically lower feedstock costs for US
refiners. Under current law, US crude cannot be freely exported. Some very small exceptions
exist and are typically tied to a return of the products to the US that those crude exports
produce. However, in fact, virtually all domestic US crude must be consumed within the US.
One now needs to recall basic macroeconomics with those supply and demand curves. In the
closed US crude system, supply has increased while demand for crude has notin truth it has
slightly, but US refinery utilization rates are already at/near historic highs. So given increased
supply, unmoved demand and no ability to export crude, the result is a drop in price for US
crude. That price drop occurs relative to a largely constant global crude price.

AM-14-43
Page 4

Consequently, US refiners see a massive value transfer from low price


priced North American crude
feedstock when they can monetize that with an export product sale. Along the way, increased
US crude production
ction also improves the US-only
only crude supply/demand balance and with it,
geopolitical security. The geopolitical issues in other parts of the world resulting in disruption of
crude and product to market, e.g. Latin American refinery projects delayed or canceled
can
even as
demand for finished product increases further enhances the US as a stable, attractive area for
investment.

Figure 3:

Brazilian Fuel Outlook

Finally, this advantage continues beyond fuels and into related industries
es such as plastics. The
increasing production of LTO and shale condensates against fixed US refining capacity will
further increase the discount of domestic crude to the world market. However, this is only to a
pointand
and that point is the volume
volume-weighted
weighted cost of domestic production. Like most things, the
breakeven costs of each barrel of crude production varies not only between the different plays,
but also by producer and over time. As guidance, KBC estimates the volume--weighted bulk of
this break-even
even to be at/near $65/bbl. Given a global crude market trading
tradingo
on average as of
December 2013near
near $100/bbl, there is little chance significant US production will be shut in.
In fact, just the opposite is happening.
The challenge, therefore, for the US refiner will be to accommodate and maximize the value of
LTO not only in short-term day-to
to-day operations, but also strategically over the longer term. We
discuss those shorter, tactical issues that need to b
be addressed today and how to document
lessons learned, and react appropriately to export product market opportunities.

AM-14-43
Page 5

Figure 4:

3.0

US Refinery Capacity and Utilization

Primary Refinery Impact Areas

To understand the impact of LTO on a refinery, one should focus on the key properties and
characteristics. Whether comparing Bakken, Eagle Ford, or other LTO crude sources, these
crudes have the following general characteristics:

Highly Paraffinic
Low Sulfur/Nitrogen/Conventional Con
Contaminants
Contain unusual/
unusual/unconventional contaminants
Low resid
sid content, high naphtha/light
naphtha/light-ends yield
Highly variable composition and properties

Other papers and presentations can provide more specific details on these properties2,3,6, and
some of these properties will be reviewed later in this paper.
Figure 5 provides a high-level overview of the areas in a typical refinery where LTO can impact
the operation. As indicated, many of the adversely impact
impacted areas are in crude
tankage/logistics, crude/vacuum
uum unit, and the naphtha/light-end
end processing units. Other
processing units and areas are impacted, but those impacts typically involve regular production
planning and optimization activities as opposed to resolving operating problems and issues.

AM-14-43
Page 6

Low Cost Natural Gas

Problems with cold flow


properties
Lower
octanes / yields

Waxy,
Fouling

Crude
Feedstock

Low Utilization

Low Yields

Cracks well

Low Rate

Figure 5:

High olefins

LTO Overall Impacts

As refiners prepare to process new crudes, they often spend a significant amount of time,
human capital, and financial capital preparing for the new feedstock. However, what is often
lacking is the information, processes, and tools to track and manage these crudes once they are
being processed in the facility. The remainder of this paper will focus on the following key areas
where refiners should focus their efforts in monitoring and mitigating the adverse impact of
these crudes on the refinery:

4.0

Crude Quality
Tankage, Logistics, and Crude Management
Crude Compatibility
Assay Quality and LP Maintenance
Crude Unit Heat Recovery
Unit Process and Reliability Performance Monitoring

Crude Quality

Tight Oil has almost come to imply a certain quality (e.g. light and sweet). While it is true that
many tight oils do share certain similarities in characteristics, they vary in quality from field to
field and in some cases even by wells producing within a given area. The most important aspect
of Quality concerned herein is expected or typical values or ranges for a given set of
physical properties versus unexpected or inconsistent. This is an important point in that, for a
given refinery asset included in a plan, adverse impacts to operations may be mitigated or
minimized if crude properties received match those expected, have correspondingly been
included in the operations plan, and the limitations of the assets have been accurately reflected.
Strategies for analysis, work processes, and tools to ensure that the actual operational
capability is accurately reflected are discussed in subsequent sections. These provide for a
mechanism to value a given crude for a corresponding asset configuration within constraints,
plan and schedule accordingly, execute the plan operationally and optimize profitability. In this

AM-14-43
Page 7

section, the importance of quality is explored as well as obstacles encountered in getting


accurate and sufficient data to evaluate and potentially plan for and process LTOs.
4.1

Importance of Quality

Why is quality, as discussed here, important? The old adage, Garbage-In, Garbage-Out
(GIGO), might spring to mind. However, one refiners GIGO could be anothers opportunity to
maximize profitability with an accurately assessed crude mix and executed plan that monitors
for and mitigates potential adverse impacts for a given quality. Accurately obtaining and auditing
crude quality (expected/typical) is important in(5):
The health/safety of personnelsome LTOs have H2S or other potentially
hazardous substances that require mitigation (e.g. additives or planning for
handling)
Environmental additives or chemicals used in the production process could
impact waste water treatment plants (WWTP), effluent/sour waters (e.g. solids,
mercury, alkaline metals)
Planning/Scheduling compatibility with other crudes, resulting yields vs.
planned yields
Economics fundamental to the evaluation of crude candidates for a given
refinery. Ultimately, this is key for determining the valuation.
Operations some specifications are very sensitive to particular contaminants;
further, inaccuracies can lead to bottlenecks, blending issues, off-spec products
(closely tied to Planning/Scheduling).
Reliability - unexpected characteristics may prevent specific mitigation and
impact unit run-length through unplanned outages.
Contracts - the only means for ensuring that the delivered crude is what was
bought (or means for financial adjustments ipso facto).

AM-14-43
Page 8

4.2

Critical Stream Properties and Contaminants

A full and rigorous discussion on all the properties and contaminants that comprise the quality of
a specific crude and potentially impact the operations of a refinery is beyond the scope of this
paper. However, a high-level summary is useful to provide context on the need for refiners to
track and audit properties and contaminants. Not all impacts are negative, as some allow for
greater planning and operational flexibility. However, Tables 1 and 2 summarize key properties
and how they may adversely impact refining operation(6).

Table 1:

Key Stream Properties and Impacts

PROPERTY

COMMENT

IMPACT

API

As the crude gravity approaches that of water, diluent is needed to


separate water from hydrocarbon

Water/Oil Separation

Sulfur
Nitrogen
PONA
Metals Ni/V/Fe
Metals Na/Ca/As/Ti
Concarbon
Asphaltenes
Naphthenic Acids
Compatibility

High sulfur levels require H2 and produce more H2S


High nitrogen levels require H2 and produce more NH3
Drives gasoline/aromatic precursor yields
High catalyst replacement cycle
Alkaline metals require special guard bed catalysts
Requires carbon rejection mechanism
Increases potential for fouling that requires shutdowns to resolve
High levels cause corrosion

Corrosion
Corrosion, Support Unit
Capacity
Affects hydrogen addition
for clean products
Catalyst deactivation
Corrosion/Catalyst
deactivation
Catalyst deactivation and
yields
Fouling
Corrosion/fouling

Certain crude and blends are incompatible

Chlorides

Typically associated with alkaline metals

Methanol

Helps prevent hydrate formation

Viscosity

If too high to pump, requires diluents or redesign

AM-14-43
Page 9

Affects allowable crude


blend and fouling
Corrosion
Water/Oil Separation,
Catalyst Deactivation
High transportation costs

Table 2:
Crude Metals and Sources
CONVENTIONAL METALS
SOURCE
Nickel, Vanadium

In asphaltenes

Natural organics

Iron

Iron oxides

Corrosion products, sulphides

CONCERNS
Catalyst poison
Catalyst poison,
Foulant

Silicon

Polydimethylsiloxane

Defoamer

Catalyst poison

Arsenic

As organics

Natural organics

Catalyst poison

SOURCE

CONCERNS

EXOTIC METALS

Natural organics
Phosphorous

Pigging gel

Catalyst poison

Acidizing gel
Titanium

With bitumen solids

Naturally occurring

Alkaline metals

Ca, Mg, Na

Naturally occurring

Catalyst poison
Catalyst poison,
Foulant

Calcium stearate

Flow improver

Crude fouling

Mercury

Naturally occurring

Catalyst poison

Selenium

Naturally occurring

Environmental

As indicated, these properties essentially drive how a given refinery will perform and how the
assets generate sustainable and reliable profitability. Therefore, understanding these properties
and contaminants, not only in crudes but also in intermediate streams and final products, is
critical to selecting a crude slate and preparing and executing an operating plan.
4.3

Quality Measurement Obstacles

Several data sources exist to understand and estimate the properties of a given crude or
refining stream. The best way to understand a streams properties is to measure them in a
laboratory. While this option may seem intuitively obvious, accurate measurement of a given
property is more difficult than it may initially seem. This situation is true for most crude types, but
can be more pronounced for LTOs as a function of several obstacles(5):

Dramatic increase in number of sources/crude producers (some inexperienced)


Sample collection methodology inconsistent or nonexistent
Systemic factors in predominant transportation modes (e.g. rail)
Lack of consistency in measured property characteristics within same region or even
gathering system
Difference in desired or required testing by players
Availability of proximate testing service providers

With the rapid increase in production of LTOs, the number of sources and types available has
increased and the concept of a prototype crude with a characteristic assay that is consistent is
not holding true. Crudes from the same region or even producing wells within the same
gathering system can exhibit appreciable differences in measured properties. Granted, much of
the variability may be attributable to lack of consistency in sampling methodology, standards,
and logistical aspects of transportation mode (e.g. crude-by-rail). However, much of the
AM-14-43
Page 10

inconsistency is driven by the source well as well as the point in the wells life cycle. Therefore,
many refiners will have multiple versions of a given LTO crude source to account for this
variability.

81204

65810

53163

36379

26721

16777

11631

11973

11106

8459

6723

3385

2683

2795

2512

2976

Railcars (Quarterly Totals)

99173

117509

Terminated Carloads of Crude Oil


on US Class 1 Railroads

103219

The rapid growth of crude-b


by-rail
ail (CBR) for delivery brings logistical challenges to
representative sampling of LTOs. At roughly 700 barrels per car for the almost 320,000 cars
terminated on US Class 1 Railroads for the first three quarters of 2013, the rail share of US
domestic production has risen from negligible to about 11% in less than three years(4).

1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q 1Q 2Q 3Q
2009 2009 2009 2009 2010 2010 2010 2010 2011 2011 2011 2011 2012 2012 2012 2012 2013 2013 2013

Data Source: Association of American Railroads


Figure 6:

(4)

US Class 1 Rail Cars of Crude Oil by Year

The sheer number of cars involved introduces variability and potential for the unexpected(5):

Commingling in the rail cars of crudes from multiple sources


Stratification in rail cars during transportation tim
time
Contaminants from heels left from previous content (residuals, trash)
Logistics prevent sampling each car
Sources may include multiple 3rd parties (e.g. transloaders)
accountability/ownership

with

little

Typical current practice is to spot sample or use auto-samplers at delivery. Auto-sampling


Auto
does
give an average of the material delivered, but does not allow for isolation and identification of a
specific contaminated source. Further, testing solely at delivery places the refiner in a situation
where only reactive mitigations are available
available, if any(5,6). These
hese may be limited and impose
logistical and scheduling hardships on an operating facility. Routine sampling
ampling at source is rare;
and
nd further, if done, there may be inherent variation in procedures and practices at multiple
AM-14-43
Page 11

sources. Moreover, there is a disconnect between the level and number of tests required by the
source for marketing or trading versus that of the refiner trying to proactively plan, monitor,
mitigate, and optimize. There are advantages to being able to obtain representative, accurate
results at the time of loading. Some refiners have implemented this practice to give time to
mitigate for results that depart from the expected. In fact, one refiner put this into practice as a
means to find the source of contamination that began to be chronic (and was tracked
successfully).
Presuming the previously discussed obstacles are overcome and a representative sample is
obtained, the next hurdle is accurately measuring the property value. The ability of the
laboratory to measure, accurately, a property is strongly influenced by the following factors:

Availability and accuracy of the measurement equipment


Training of laboratory staff and adherence to a given procedure
Sample preparation and handling techniques of a given stream sample

Numerous examples exist of refiners making critical decisions based on inaccurate


measurements of properties due to problems in these areas. Fortunately, options are growing
for service providers as the production and necessity increases.
Finally, measuring all streams and properties is not practical or cost effective. Consequently,
refiners need other methods to understand a given crudes or streams properties before the
crude is purchased, let alone processed. Traditional assays have been used to provide a
summary of its properties for the various boiling point cuts that exist in the crude, in addition to
the quantity of each boiling point cut(6). These assays are generated by specialty laboratories
that take samples of whole crude streams and complete a series of separations and tests to
measure the amount of each cut and properties of each respective cut. The crudes are labeled
by the source of the crude, such as the region or production field. Assay databases can be
purchased, generated from in-house data, or pulled from open-literature sources.
Understandably, the same challenges discussed previously impact generation and validity of
crude assays.
Refiners and crude traders can be lulled into a false sense of security and knowledge if they
assume that a given crude will have a fixed set of properties and yields continuously. In reality,
the assay is a snapshot in time. Validations of crude assays and back-casting of actual versus
predicted crude properties and volumes are critical components of effective crude selection and
management processes and will be discussed later in Section 8.0.

5.0

Tankage/Logistics/Crude Management

The management of LTO starts at delivery and works all the way through to the feed to the
crude unit. The rail unloading system requires more personnel interaction compared to other
supply methods, thereby requiring a greater attention to safety of unloading the cars. H2S
mitigation in unloading as well as throughout the tank system is more of an issue with LTO than
conventional oils. The use of H2S scavengers is more common to address this issue. The
impact of additives (in the field, transportation, and refining) are yet to be fully analyzed.
The tankage system size, number of tanks in service (not in turnaround), and crude
compatibility takes the forefront of the crude management and logistics. Some crude
combinations may not be acceptable or a crude may just be very high in waxy content. Tank
temperatures, frequency of turnover, mixing facilities, and even the tank floor play a role in the
management of the crude.
AM-14-43
Page 12

One of the concerns with processing LTOs and other non-conventional crudes is the lack of
adequate crude tankage. For example, because of the potential for incompatibility, segregation
of these potentially problematic crudes becomes a high priority to avoid the precipitation of
asphaltenes. However, in the last 15 years or so, there has been a strong push to rationalize
refinery tankage to minimize both the capital and inventory costs of excessive tankage.
Today, statistical risk (Monte Carlo) simulation tools are widely used to optimize the number and
size of refinery tank facilities. Key factors taken into account when doing this analysis for crude
storage include:

Refinery complexity
Crude delivery method
Largest crude parcel size
Days of advance and delay
Pumping time (tankers)
Settling time
Turnarounds and other scheduled maintenance
Crude blocked operations
Any compulsory storage or Owners preference

Crude segregation has typically not been a parameter for this analysis unless there was a
known concern or experience that crude compatibility was going to be an issue. In addition, a
fewer number of larger tanks rather than a larger number of smaller tanks are often constructed
to save capital costs. These factors have resulted in a number of crude tank farms that are
generally deficient when trying to segregate challenging crudes adequately.
In the past, conventional crudes were more readily mixed either in the receiving tank or into a
day tank to buffer the changes to the crude unit. The LTO requires the consideration to
segregate types of crude and to use a philosophy of in-line blending direct to the crude unit feed
pump. The tank system also must account for tank heels that may be very waxy; thus,
intermediate days might be required to flush a tank with a compatible solvent to recover the
lost heel volume to maximize the crude storage availability. Further, turnaround practices are
being modified with third party companies to decrease outages from six (6) months to three (3)
months or less.
Though the physical assets are important, one must remember that the staff operating those
assets is critical for proper crude management. Training refinery tank operators to feed back
what they experience is the first step in data collection and analysis of the source stocks to
provide a path to better understanding and adapting procedures and systems for better LTO
management.

6.0

Crude Compatibility

The large economic driving force to process relatively new North American developed crudes
continues to push refining companies to process these crudes to as large of an extent as
possible. These crudes include the LTOs and heavier oil sands based crude oils produced in
Canada. The incentives are so large that refiners who can find a safe and effective way to
process these crudes can plan to realize large benefits in increased profit margins. However,
experience has found that the processing of these types of crudes have brought on a number of
operating issues that need to be overcome to ensure capturing the full economic benefit.

AM-14-43
Page 13

One of the big issues when processing these types of crudes is crude incompatibility
particularly regarding asphaltenes precipitation. Refiners processing these opportunity crudes
continue to primarily use a reactive and experienced based strategy to deal with the
incompatibility issues that can produce problems from the tank farm through the crude unit
where stabilized emulsions can result in desalter water carryover, and increased fouling of both
the cold and hot crude preheat trains and crude heaters. Options to help mitigate compatibility
issues include:

Adjustments to the crude blending strategy


Reducing the ratio of the opportunity crude to the crude blend
Applying an enhanced chemical strategy including the addition of an
asphaltenes stabilizer

An additional and more proactive strategy is to analyze the asphaltene stability of the
prospective crude blends. With this type of testing, a refiner can develop a crude blend stability
database that can be quite helpful in avoiding crude compatibility issues. However, the
effectiveness of this strategy relies on having enough lead-time and/or enough available
tankage for crude segregation and testing. Often this situation will not be the case, as
highlighted previously.
As an alternative, an effective predictive method based on crude assay qualities would seem to
be the best strategy to determine and avoid incompatible crude blends prior to processing them
in the refinery. Fairly recent improvements in KBCs visbreaking technology has been used to
significantly extend visbreaker run lengths by more careful feed selection thereby avoiding
incompatible mixes of vacuum residue and atmospheric residue feeds.(7) One of the key
improvements was the development of a basis for predicting unstable residue mixes for an
unknown crude or crude mix.
This same technology can be used to determine the crude compatibility index (CI) for various
crude blends. These individual crude CI values are predicted using KBCs proprietary
compatibility correlations. The figure below shows the calculated CI for Eagle Ford crude blends
with three crudes containing different levels of asphaltenes. The uppermost curve represents
the predicted CI as the ratio of the Eagle Ford crude increases when blended with a relatively
low asphaltenes, medium gravity US conventional crude. The calculated CI predicts this type of
crude can blend with up to 50% Eagle Ford crude before it becomes a concern.
However, a refinery that normally processes a crude with similar qualities to this US based
crude would likely want to blend the much lighter Eagle Ford crude with a heavier crude to
better fit the refinery configuration. Thus, the medium and high asphaltenes crudes in the figure
below represent heavier crudes that might be considered better candidates for blending with
Eagle Ford in terms of the resulting overall yield structure for that particular site. In this case, the
medium asphaltene content crude is a lower gravity South American conventional crude while
the high asphaltene crude is a similar gravity, non-conventional Western Canadian crude.
As the figure indicates, both of the heavier crudes show a concern for incompatibility with Eagle
Ford crude at lower blend ratios than with the US based crude. In this example, the South
American crude blend becomes a concern with a blend approaching 40% of Eagle Ford while
the Western Canadian crude blend becomes a concern with only a 30% blend of Eagle Ford
crude.

AM-14-43
Page 14

Compatibility Index vs % in Blend


20

16

CI

12

Compatible

4
Concern
Likely Not Compatible

0
0

20

40

60

80

100

% Eagle Ford in Blend


Low
Medium
High
Figure 7:

Crude Compatibility Index vs. Blend %

These potential blend limitations should be accounted for when determining what are the most
economic crudes to purchase when trying to optimize refinery production and profitability. KBC
believe that a predictive tool, such as the one shown here
here, can be a very valuable means for
making those decisions and supplementing the active testing methods that refiners are utilizing
today.

7.0

Crude Unit Heat Recovery

7.1

Exchanger Fouling and Design Consid


Consideration

The processing of LTOs as feed to crude units has resulted in an increased tendency for
preheat exchanger fouling. Accelerated preheat fouling can be caused by crude incompatibility
and the resulting increase in asphaltene precipitation as discusse
discussed
d previously. LTOs are also
high in filterable solids that can also cause an incre
increased rate of fouling. What refiners are finding
today is there is not only an increase in exchanger fouling in the hot end of the preheat train, but
these mechanisms are also showing up and increasing the fouling rate in the cold preheat train
exchangers.
A proposed method to predict heat exchanger performance when processing crudes that are
likely to cause an increase in exchanger fouling through the two mechanisms
mechanis
above is
described elsewhere.(7) However, even with the use of state
state-of-the-art
art fouling prediction
techniques, methods for mitigating and/or reducing the overall economic impact of exchanger
fouling will continue to be important to the refiner to ensure their operat
operating
ing facility can maximize
its profitability. Increased fouling not only increases operating costs, but can also result in
reduced unit throughput or even a shutdown for exchanger cleaning.

AM-14-43
Page 15

From a design perspective, a few improvements in exchanger design may be helpful to mitigate
fouling. First, there is an increased interest today to design exchangers with higher tube and
shell-side velocities, eliminate dead areas, etc., to reduce the fouling tendency.8,9 Traditional
exchanger designs are typically based on using fouling factors recommended by the Tubular
Exchanger Manufacturers Association (TEMA), perhaps with some modifications based on
experience. This more current no or low fouling type of design attempts to significantly reduce
that historical built-in fouling factor that overdesigns exchangers, which tends to self fulfill the
higher degree of fouling.
For existing crude preheat exchangers, it may be possible, for example, to retrofit Twisted
Tube bundles into existing exchanger shells or, if required, new shell and tubes can be
ordered. This baffle-free design essentially eliminates the dead spots while also providing more
efficient heat transfer. Other types of exchanger designs, such as helical-baffle, can also be
considered to help reduce the shell-side dead zones and thereby reduce fouling.
Of course, the number of refiners that will be adding new exchangers or can justify retrofitting
existing crude preheat exchangers will be in the minority. Most refiners, certainly in the near
term, will have to rely on their existing exchanger equipment and deal with the fouling issues as
best as they can.
7.2

Exchanger Performance Monitoring

The most effective way to maintain an existing crude preheat train operating at its economic
optimum is by using an automated monitoring tool. Unfortunately, many refineries do not have
that capability and instead rely on simpler and less effective techniques. These techniques
include conducting basic temperature/pressure surveys and then using that data to determine
the amount of fouling that is occurring by tracking the loss in heat transfer. More often than not,
this will be done using a relatively simple spreadsheet. This type of tool will not likely have the
capability of dynamically and holistically determining what the impact of cleaning one or more
exchangers will have on the improvement of the fired heater coil inlet temperature. Instead, the
refiner will have to rely on experience assuming good historical records are maintained.
One commercially available monitoring tool is KBCs HX Monitor, a heat exchanger monitor
utility in Petro-SIM. This utility tracks the exchanger fouling by linking to the existing operating
and laboratory data, as well as the data historian. Using these data, it then generates the
economic benefits of cleaning an exchanger or series of exchangers versus the loss of
production and cleaning costs. Since the preheat train exchangers are linked, the model will
determine the direct impact of the cleaning on the heater COT, thereby eliminating any
guesswork. The preheat network can also be linked with the crude and vacuum column models
where, for example, it can account column operating changes including stream rate/property
changes, pumparound heat removal restrictions, and other performance variables.
Examples of the typical types of HX Monitor reports are shown in the figures below. The first
shows a detailed breakdown of the payback for cleaning each of the exchangers in the network.
It also shows the impact of combining two of the exchangers for cleaning. In this second case,
the model shows that cleaning both exchangers will provide a payback in a little over three
weeks with an expected increase in heater coil inlet temperature of 17C.

AM-14-43
Page 16

Figure 8:

HX-Monitor Report

This next figure is an example of how the data can be plotted. In this case, the improvement in
fired heater coil inlet temperature is plotted against exchanger(s) being cleaned.

Figure 9:

HX Monitor Feed Temperature Improvement Comparison

Plots such as these as well as the other more detailed data displayed above are quite useful
information that can be readily inserted into operating or management reports. They provide a
very clear picture of the cost versus benefits of cleaning exchangers that should help simplify
the decision making process.

AM-14-43
Page 17

8.0

Assay Quality and LP Maintenance

8.1

Assay Quality

The LTO oils have greater variability than typical conventional crude sources. In the past the
crude oil field depletion or change was slow enough that getting a detailed sample and analysis
today was sufficient for the next 5 years. This situation is not true of the unconventional or LTO.
The variety or variability of Eagle Ford, Bakken, Marcellus, and Utica crudes, to name a few, is
quite diverse. The economic model used to plan and set strategies within the typical refinery is
the linear program (LP). The inputs to the LP are detailed assay analysis of the crude source.
The unconventional oil molecular make up is quite different from the conventional oils, with
substantially lower sulfur, nitrogen, metals and higher paraffin and isoparaffin concentrations.
Recent work with detailed hydrocarbon analysis (DHA) of condensates indicates that, from
production formation to formation, different concentrations of PIANO (paraffin, isoparaffin,
aromatic, naphthene, olefin) exist. One implication of this difference is that the naphtha reformer
units yield performance and severity requirements can be quite different. Obviously, as the
paraffin concentration increases and/or aromatics decrease, the cracking severity changes as
will the C5+ yield and octane. Therefore, having accurate assay information is critical to
planning and managing the refinery operation. Similar issues exist with properties such as
freeze point in jet fuel, cloud and pour point in diesel, and metals and concarbon for gasoils.
Sampling and analysis of crude receipts at the refinery gate is one means to track and get an
idea of the changes that will be made and impact to production and schedules. As previously
mentioned, if there are incompatibilities of various crude sources, the impact or limitation to coprocessing must be addressed in the LP to reflect the economics of operations.
8.2

LP Impacts

The need to review and update the LP vectors with the advent of LTO is becoming a
problematic area for many refiners. With a steady diet of consistent crudes, many refiners would
only need to update the LP vectors periodically due to significant changes in unit performance
or the introduction of new operating envelopes. Given the large variability in crude properties, in
LTO, the LPs should be reviewed and updated more frequently.
Key in this effort is the backcasting or look-back auditing of the month-to-month operation of
each unit in the refinery against LP predictions. Unit-by-unit feed and yield analysis, combined
with the LP predictions, identifies gaps between the LP and reality. These gaps may be
operational and/or yield related, thereby requiring analysis on whether to include or exclude in
LP modifications and updates.
The lower sulfur LTO and unconventional oils, in light of upcoming Tier 3 specification
mandates, improve the refiners ability to meet the gasoline sulfur specification. The lower feed
sulfur and higher paraffinic nature reduce the severity demands and, at the FCC, increase the
conversion. From a sulfur management basis, it is a welcome feedstock, but from the
perspective of octane generation, it is more of a challenge. Therefore, the LTO assay and unitby-unit representation with more restrictive fuels specifications highlights the need to be vigilant
with incoming feed tracking, unit mass/properties balances, and LP representation.

AM-14-43
Page 18

Finally, the LP tool is used in conjunction with the scheduling tool to produce and ship various
grades of gasoline as well as meeting jet and diesel movements. The variability of the LTO and
feed quality variation can have an impact on fouling that may impede meeting production targets
and thus shipping schedules. The tighter specification on Tier 3 gasoline will force refiners to
tighten up on the giveaway or margin between finished specs and pipeline or pump
specifications. The lower the margin at the blend point, the lower the margin in unit operations
upstream. These examples, again, highlight the need for tracking / updating and maintaining the
LP in a more on-line and real-time basis than has been needed in the past.
8.3

LP Maintenance

Several options exist to provide updates of an LP(10,11,12), including:

Reconciled plant data with controlled test runs


Licensor or vendor data
Pilot plant data
Generic correlations
Rigorous process simulations with kinetic models

Many refiners are now gravitating to the use of process simulations with kinetic models to
provide updated LP unit submodels, especially when updating the shift vectors. Although this
model based approach does require at least one heat and material balance of the process unit
to set up and calibrate the model, this approach has several advantages over the alternate
methods listed above:

Less intensive on refining staff and process units to complete step tests and
plant data reconciliation
Ability to predict performance more rapidly than completing test runs
Improved accuracy compared to generic correlations
Typically more cost effective than pilot plant tests, as well as the ability to mirror
unit configuration, feature, and performance aspects such as fractionation
efficiency
Ability to maintain and utilize the tool within the organization, thereby reducing
reliance on third parties for performance data
Capability to leverage tools for other purposes in engineering and design

As an example, a simplified Petro-SIM model of a Crude/Vacuum is used to demonstrate the


concept. In this case, the unit consists of a preflash tower, main fractionator, and vacuum unit
(Figure 10). The model is calibrated and set up to fit the units configuration and separation
efficiency. The KBC LP Utility is utilized to take crude assays from a crude assay database,
process the crudes through the unit simulation, and automatically generate LP tables that can
be directly imported into the LP model platform of choice. The user can include both real cuts
and swing cuts and generate most common refining properties for these cuts, as deemed
necessary to understand the change in cutpoints on refinery operation (Figure 11). These swing
cuts can be changed or modified as the users deem necessary and the entire crude assay
database processed through the model and into LP tables in just a matter of minutes. This same
approach can be used on downstream units, and the LP Utility will allow the user to perturbate
other unit performance variables, such as FCC riser temperature, hydrotreater sulfur target, or
reformer severity, to name a few.

AM-14-43
Page 19

Figure 10:

Petro-SIM Crude/Vacuum Simulation with LP Utility

Figure 11:

LP Utility Swing Cuts

By applying a tool like an LP Utility, the refiner can quickly and efficiently update the LP crude
assay tables and unit submodels to reflect current and potential operating conditions. This
capability is particularly important for refiners processing LTO, as the crude qualities and unit
operating conditions can change significantly, as LTO is processed in the facility. By improving
the accuracy of the LP model, the refiner can confidently make the necessary crude purchasing
and unit operating strategy decisions.
AM-14-43
Page 20

9.0

Unit Process and Reliability Performance Monitoring

As highlighted in several areas above, the need for and criticality of unit performance monitoring
has become a more important issue when processing LTO. Most refiners have some platform
unit performance and health monitoring tools, whether it be via tracking spreadsheets,
dashboards, or monitoring tools linked to simulation models(13). Whichever platform a refiner
chooses, increased processing of LTO provides an opportunity for the refinery personnel to
review the information, targets, and KPIs (key performance indicators) monitored by these
applications.
Best practice for unit performance monitoring is to review the contents of these tools on a yearly
basis or as required when significant changes in unit operation occur. Most refiners should
include this review as part of conventional management of change (MOC) processes. Since
processing LTO can significantly impact a units operating conditions, the refiner should review
the operation against accepted operating envelopes. In some cases, the unit may be operating
at higher or lower throughput, different temperature profiles, or with different yield patterns,
thereby potentially going beyond accepted operating envelopes. Therefore, the monitoring tool
should not only track these critical variables but also ensure the high/low limits are aligned with
defined operating envelopes, design conditions, and accepted practices within the facility.
The following lessons learned are offered for consideration as part of ensuring unit health
monitoring is occurring properly:

Do not just focus on conventional process variables. Make sure one takes into account
reliability related KPIs and process variables that impact reliability.

Utilize a cross functional team to complete a cold eyes review of the monitored
variables and limits set within monitoring application.

Ensure the KPIs are clearly defined and prioritized such that the users understand the
required next steps to return the variable to the proper performance region.

Check the accuracy of instrumentation used directly as monitored variables as well as


the calculations and correlations used to create KPIs.

The tendency of many refiners is to gravitate to the impacts of LTO processing on yields and
product qualities. However, the refiner should not forget the impact of LTO on equipment
reliability, such as compressor performance, exchanger fouling, metal corrosion, and
maintenance practices.

10.0

Conclusions

In summary, processing LTO provides a great opportunity for US refiners to leverage cost and
location advantaged crudes with existing plant capabilities. As refiners evaluate, value, and
process these crudes, they should focus on tracking and understanding how the crudes are
impacting the refinerys performance. Some of the critical areas include:

Crude quality monitoring


Tankage and logistics management
Compatibility of LTO with others crudes processed in the facility
Exchanger fouling monitoring
LP assay and model maintenance
Unit process and reliability monitoring
AM-14-43
Page 21

Several options and techniques exist to ensure the refiner can address these issues and
capture the full economic benefit of processing LTO.

AM-14-43
Page 22

11.0

Works Cited

Energy Information Administration Website, February 2014, www.eia.gov

Sayles, S. and M. Routt, Unconventional Crude Oil Selection and Compatibility, NPRA Annual Meeting, March 2011.

Sayles, S., Unconventional Crude Processing Part 2: Heteroatoms, Crude Oil Quality Association (COQA), October 2010.

Association of American Railroads, Moving Crude Oil by Rail, December 2013.

Weimer, Gary, Crude by Rail Quality Issues, Crude Oil Quality Association June 2013 Meeting.

Ohmes, R. and Routt, M., Characterizing and Tracking Contaminants in Opportunity Crudes, AFPM Annual Meeting, March
2013.

Sayles, S. and Romero, S., Case History: Characterization of Shale Oils and Heat-Exchanger Performance, Hydrocarbon
Processing, February 2014

Bott, T Reg, To Foul or Not to Foul, Chemical Engineering Progress, November 2001

Nesta, J. and Bennett C. A., Reduce Fouling in Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchangers, Hydrocarbon Processing, July 2004

10

Tucker, Michael A., LP Modeling Past, Present, and Future, NPRA 2001 Computer Conference, CC-01-153.

11

Tucker, Michael and Crespo, Ihali, Upgrade and Applications for the PEMEX National Refining System LP Model, AFPM Q&A
Meeting, October 2013.

12

Kidd, Nigel, LP Model Data Development using Simulation Models, Haverly MUG 2013 Conference, September 2013.

13

Ohmes, Robert, Developing and Enabling the Next Generation of Refinery Process Engineers, AFPM Annual Meeting, March
2012.

TRADEMARK / REGISTERED TRADEMARK REFERENCE


ProSteam is a trademark of KBC Advanced Technologies plc, and is registered in various territories.
Excel is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.

AM-14-43
Page 23