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Plant Design of a Crude Distillation Unit and Reformer Area

By
Enrique Salazar
Samuel Stratton
Abed Aicha
Mohanad Alhamdan
Connor McBride
Roberto Obregon

Dan F. Smith Department of Chemical Engineering

College of Engineering

Lamar University

May 2017
Abstract

The primary objective of this project was to design a crude distillation unit that can

process 325,000 barrels of oil per day and to produce 50,000 bbl/day of Light Atmospheric

Naphtha. The current process is also capable of producing 1.3 million gallons/day of jet

fuel from kerosene, over 6.0 million gallons/day of gasoline, 3.4 million gallons/day of

diesel for the production of ultra-low sulfur diesel, about 8,000 tons/day of petroleum coke,

about 1,000 tons/day of sulfur, and 17.5 barrels per day of liquefied petroleum gases. A

crude blend of Ebok Heavy and Terengannu Light will be used with a 74/26 mixture. Based

on West Texas Intermediate Benchmark, the Ebok and Terengannu current prices are

around $38.14/bbl and $70.11/bbl, respectively. Revenues from sales for the current

process were estimated to be $23.78 million. The yearly raw material requirements will

have an expense of $15.05 million (63.3% of revenues). Total yearly expenses were

calculated to be $1.1 billion. Due to the scale of the design, this process involves the heavy

use of utilities which account for 27% of the total yearly expenses. Despite this, the process

presents a payback period of approximately 2 years of operation and the 12 th year a total

profit of over $3.676 billion was calculated.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………5-6

Crude Blending………………………………………………………………………..6-7

Crude Process Overview, Flow Sheets………………………………………………..7-14

Desalter Design……………………………………………….8-9

Atmospheric Distillation …………………………………….10-12

Vacuum Distillation……………………………………….…12-14

Reformer Process Overview, Flow Sheets……………...................................……....15-17

Reformer Area Description…………………………………..15-17

Reformer Area Flowsheet …………………………………....17-18

Heat Exchanger Network and Utility Requirements………………………………....19-23

Pumparounds and Condenser Capacities…………………..…19

Pinch Analysis……………………………………………..….20-22

MUMNE…………………………………………………........22-23

Cost Summaries and Economic Analyses…………………………...........................24-28

Equipment Cost Summary………………………………...…24

Fixed Capital Investment………………………………….…24

Operating Cost……………………………….……………….24-25

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Profitability Analysis……………………………………....…25-28

Environmental Permitting …………………….……………………………………28-33

Permitting …………………………………………………….28-29

Reformer Area………………………………………………...29-31

Atmospheric and Vacuum Still………………………………...31-33

Safety Concerns…………………………………………………………………….33-37

Description of safety risks…………………………………....33-35

Tesoro Refinery Explosion, 2010………………………….....36

Chevron Richmond Refinery Fire………….………………....36-37

Appendix A: Crude Assays………………………….…………..……………..…….….38

Appendix B: Aspen Process Flow Diagram……………………….…………………….39

Works Cited……………………………………………………………………………...40

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Introduction

Crude oil consists of a mixture of hydrocarbons, chains of carbon atoms bonded

to each other and to hydrogen atoms. The properties of the resulting molecules are

defined mainly by the arrangement of atoms, known as the form, and the number of

carbon atoms, referred to as the size or weight. The complexity of a hydrocarbons form

increases greatly as the size increases. Different end products such as gasoline, diesel,

and jet fuel, are composed of different weight portions, or fractions, of a hydrocarbon

mixture. Gasoline is composed of a mixture of hydrocarbons that are mostly between four

and twelve carbons in length. To separate the gasoline fraction from the others,

distillation units take advantage of boiling point differences between fractions. Our

process will maximize the production of gasoline to 6.0 million gallons per day of

gasoline by producing roughly 50,000 barrels per day of light naphtha, one of the main

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components of gasoline blending. To accomplish this task the front end of a whole

refinery has been designed, that is the Crude Unit and the Reformer area. The crude unit

will consist of a desalter, an atmospheric tower, and a vacuum section. The reformer area

design will include three reactions to transform light and heavy naphtha to higher-octane

rating molecules. A heat integration study has also been conducted to minimize the cost

of utilities and a heat exchanger network was designed to approximate the minimum

number of heat exchangers require6d for a pre-heat train. An environmental permit

analysis was also conducted to understand the requirements and code regulations that are

in place for petroleum processing units. A complete safety analysis was conducted, with

extensive research in past/historical incidents involving unit accidents. Finally, an

economic analysis was conducted to obtain an overall net profit.

Crude Blending

Designing a distillation unit that can handle different slates is of economic

benefit. For this current design, multiple types of crudes were considered by their content

of estimated naphtha based on their D86 lab testing. It was found that Ebok Heavy and

Terengganu Light would provide the optimal naphtha cut for our target of 50,000 barrels

per day of light atmospheric naphtha. The crude Assays for both crudes were obtained

(Appendix A) and after conducting different blending calculations the optimum ratio of

74/26 vol% mixture was found.

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Table 1.0 - Crude Blending characteristics

A crude blending composition of 70/30, and 63/35 was also considered, but such blends

did not yield in the optimum production our target. As shown in Figure 1.1 a ratio of

74/26 concluded in the most economical blend to achieve our target.

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Figure 1.1 Crude Blending Composition

Crude Process Overview and Flowsheets

Raw crude comes in through the front end of a refinery and before entering the

atmospheric distillation tower, the crude must be cleaned. Due to the transportation, the

crudes contain a lot of salt from miles of pumping and tank settling. The crude must go

through a desalting system is to reduce the salt content of the treated oil to acceptable

levels. A general process overview of the Desalter is shown in figure 1.2.

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Figure 1.2 - Single Stage Desalter General Process flow

The resulting blended crude does not have a high salt content based on literature,

and therefore only a single stage desalter was used to obtain a class 4 cost estimate. There

are various consultants that offer confidential technologies to use for a desalter design,

however, for this process the dual polarity electrostatic desalter can handle much higher

flow rates than conventional use. The dual polarity electrostatic provides a more

complete dehydration. It is worth noting that the desalter was not simulated in aspen and

that the calculations used to size the desalter to obtain a volume and a cost were based on

the principle of stokes law, shown in Figure 1.3.

Figure 1.3 - Stokes Law Used for Desalter Design

Stokes’s law allows us to determine the settling rate based on different mass

transfer parameters of the crud and the water mixture. Figure 1.4 shows the calculated

parameters for the desalter.

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Figure 1.4 - Desalter Results

After the crude has been desalted through the single stage design that was

mentioned above, the crude goes through a series of heat exchanger networks called a

pre-heat train, the purpose of the pre-heat train is to use the energy from the atmospheric

tower to pre-heat the cold crude to minimize the total amount of utilities used for the

furnace. The heat exchanger network will be described more in detail later in this report.

The crude is then charged to a crude furnace and heated up to 650 oF to partially vaporize

the crude. Any other temperatures above 650 oF are typically avoided to reduce the

amount of cracking that can occur in the furnace and distillation unit. The vapor includes

all the components that comprise the products, while the liquid is the residue with a small

number of components in the range of gas oil. These components are removed from the

residue by steam stripping at the bottom of the column. Products are withdrawn from the

side of the column and side strippers are used to help controlling the composition of light
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components. In addition, to more effectively remove heat, liquid is extracted at various

points of the column and cooled down to be reinjected at a different position on the

column, the crude tower column setup, column calculated parameters, and product specs

are shown in Figure 1.5, Figure 1.6, and figure 1.7, respectively. The topped crude

leaving the atmospheric tower can still contain significant amount of valuable oils.

Different refineries can use these vacuum oils for the production of lubricating oils. Our

vacuum process will focus on the most common use of gas oil extraction for charge to

downstream cracking units for maximum production of gasoline.

Figure 1.5 - Atmospheric Tower Aspen Plus Simulation

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Figure 1.6 - Atmospheric Column Design Specs.

Figure 1.7 - Atmospheric Product Specs

The vacuum feed is also preheated to around 750 oF, which allows the separation

of the light vacuum gas oil (LVGO) and heavy vacuum gas oil (HVGO) from the vacuum

residuum stream. The temperature is also controlled just below where thermal

decomposition begins to occur. Steam is injected into the stripping zone to keep the

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temperature below 700 oF to again prevent further cracking of vacuum gas oil. It is also

that vacuum tower does not have a condenser or side strippers because there is no need to

control the spec of the vacuum products. The vacuum tower column setup, column

calculated parameters, and product specs are shown in Figure 1.8, Figure 1.9, and Figure

2.0, respectively.

Figure 1.8 - Vacuum Tower Set up

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Figure 1.9 - Vacuum Distillation Design Specs

Figure 2.0 - Vacuum Tower Specs


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Reformer Process Overview

Reformer Area Description

The purpose of the reforming complex is to transform the naphtha feeds from the

CDU into a gasoline blend that meets the requirements set by the EPA specific to the Gulf

Coast Region. These requirements are included in table 1.1. The properties of the naphtha

going into the complex are included in table 1.2. The light naphtha stream reaches 90% of

the target flow, which is 50,000 barrels per day. This stream has a low sulfur content and

can bypass the hydrotreating unit and still meet the gasoline specifications. The light

naphtha is then sent to an isomerization unit to increase its octane rating. the isomerization

unit will operate at around 400 F and 350 psia. The reactor has a platinum catalyst

supported by a gamma alumina base to help the process move more quickly. A hydrogen

to hydrocarbon ratio (H2/HC) of about 4 will be maintained in the reactor to reduce the

probability of hydrocracking reactions occurring.

The heavy naphtha stream does not meet the required 85,000 barrels per day that is

needed to produce the set gasoline production of 6 million gallons per day. This deficit will

be made up by sending the atmospheric gas oil and vacuum gas oil streams, which add up

to 62,000 barrels per day from the CDU, to a hydrocracking unit to produce lighter

components, such as naphtha, kerosene and diesel. The heavy naphtha from the CDU and

from the hydrocracker are combined and sent to the hydrotreating unit to reduce the sulfur

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content below 10 ppm. A cobalt-molybdenum catalyst will be used for the hydrotreating

unit and the reactor will operate at a temperature of 550 F and a pressure of 500 psia. A

H2/HC ratio of 5 will be maintained in the reactor to prevent hydrocracking and to provide

the necessary hydrogen for the conversion of sulfur into hydrogen sulfide. The heavy

naphtha is then sent to the reformer unit. The Reformer increases the octane rating of the

naphtha to an amount that will allow for economical blending of the octane booster ethanol.

The reformer will operate at a temperature of 915 F and 300 psi. A platinum and tin catalyst

with a gamma alumina base will be used for the reactor. Since this reaction produces

hydrogen it will supply most of the other units needs for hydrogen, but a H2/HC ratio of

around 3 is still needed to prevent hydrocracking and coking. The plug flow diagrams of

the units are provided in figures 2.1 to 2.3.

Table 1.1 Gasoline Specifications set by the EPa for the Gulf Coast Region

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Table 1.2 Naphtha Feedstock Parameters

Figure 2.1 Hydrotreater Plug Flow Diagram

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Figure 2.2 Continuous Catalytic Reformer Plug Flow Diagram

Figure 2.3 Isomerization Unit Plug Flow Diagram

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Heat Exchanger Network and Utility Requirements

Pumparounds and Condenser Capacities

Optimization of our pumparound heat capacities was determined as a result of

varying the quantity and capacities of the respective pumparounds while maintaining

appropriate product specifications. The vacuum and atmospheric condensers were

adjusted to compensate for the pumparound heat capacities and adjust the product

specifications towards the required outputs. This is done to maximize the amount of high

temperature heating we get from the pumparounds and minimize the use of our heating

utility.

Our heating capacities, shown visually in “Stream T” of Figure #1. are described

in detail here. Stream 1 corresponding to the atmospheric distillation tower emits 301.3

MMBTU/hr of heat from 159.5°F to 102.0°F. Stream 2, 3 and 4 emit 100 MMBTU/hr,

100 MMBTU/hr, and 40 MMBTU/hr; operate between 387.9°F to 346.5°F, 520.8°F to

484.0°F, and 594.5°F to 576.3°F; and correspond to stages 14-15, 19-20, and 24-25

respectively, within the atmospheric distillation tower. Stream 5 relating to the vacuum

distillation tower emits 91.8 MMBTU/hr, and operates from 463.7°F to 382.4°F. Finally,

streams 6 and 7 each emit 100 MMBTU/hr; operate between 518.2°F to 484.0°F, and

648.6°F to 605.4°F; and correspond to the stages of 3-4, and 10-11 respectively in the

vacuum distillation tower.

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Pinch Analysis

The pinch analysis of the heat exchangers in our process utilized the 7 sources of

heat from both the vacuum and atmospheric tower’s respective pumparounds and

condensers and used them to heat the cold streams. Stream 1 and 5 are the condenser

heat duties of the atmospheric tower and vacuum tower respectively. Streams 2-4 are

associated with the atmospheric tower’s pumparounds from stages 14-15, 19-20, and 24-

25 respectively. Streams 6-7 are the vacuum tower’s pumparounds from stages 3-4, and

10-11 respectively. Finally stream 8 and 9 the cool streams, come from the crude feed

and the desalted crude. Using the heat duties of these streams and their inlet and exit

temperatures from their respective locations we determined the heat duties associated by

section and cumulative heat duties of the tower. This allowed us to determine the pinch

point as depicted in Table 1.3 and visibly expressed in Figure 2.4 and begin construction

of the heat integration matrix shown in Figure 2.5.

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Table 1.3 Pinch Point Analysis (All temperatures are in °F)

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Figure 2.4 Composite Curve of Crude Unit Heat Integration Network

MUMNE

The Matrix indicated that a total of 10 exchangers, of the 9 streams and

condensers, were necessary for optimum utilization of heat in our process. One major

concern when constructing the matrix was that of superheated steam, to limit excessive

use of this utility we used our heating utility hps to first heat the crude as much as

possible before using our higher temperature streams from pumparounds to offset the cost

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of creating and using superheated steam at these higher temperatures. Although our

streams going to the reformer require heating above appropriate temperatures for hps, the

viability of heating the crude outweighed that of heating the streams going to the

reformer. This is shown visibly in Figure 2.5.

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Figure 2.5 Minimum Heat Exchanger Network Diagram (All heat Units are in MMBTU/hr)

Cost Summaries and Economic Analyses

Equipment Cost Summary:

For the crude distillation unit, there are two majors towers considered for the

separation. The towers include a distillation tower ran at atmospheric pressure, and a

tower run at vacuum pressure. The atmospheric tower also consists of three side strippers

and four pumparounds. The vacuum tower uses 2 pumparounds. Both towers are

preceded by a furnace for preheating the crude. Using the information from the MUMNE

analysis, 9 heat exchangers are necessary for proper heat integration. A desalter vessel

and pumps will also be considered in the equipment cost.

Fixed Capital Investment:

Using sizing and pricing from CAPCOST, with a CEPCI of 542, the atmospheric

distillation tower was priced at a Bare Module cost of $111 million. The vacuum tower

was also sized and priced via CAPCOST, with a Bare Module cost of $721 million.

Using sizing from hand calculations, the heat exchangers were priced using CAPCOST.

The overall Fixed Capital Investment for the equipment related to the flowsheet was

priced at a Bare Module Cost of $1.57 Billion.

Operating Costs:

Operating costs of the equipment were considered in the economic analysis of the

expansion. For the equipment that was priced in CAPCOST, the annual operating cost

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was observed to be approximately $1.1 billion. The utilities cost was also measured

according to the energy analysis performed using data from the AspenPlus Simulation.

For the design, the annual Utility Cost was recorded at $297.8 million.

Profitability Analysis:

The crudes selected for the blend, Ebok Heavy and Terengganu Light, were

priced at $38.14/barrel and $70.11/barrel, respectively. Using the blend data from Table

1.0, the blend was priced in Table 1.4 at $46.45/barrel. This yielded a daily cost of $15

million.

Cost per day Barrels per day Barrel Cost Crude Crude
($/barrel) Fraction

$ 9,222,822.19 241814.95 38.14 0.74 Ebok

$ 5,832,103.86 83185.05 70.11 0.26 Terengganu


Light

$ 15,054,926.05 325000 46.45 1 Total

Table 1.4: Crude Blend Pricing

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The Products were priced using Gulf Coast data from EIA, and the product daily pricing

is listed in Table 1.5.

Daily Revenue Selling Price Product

$11,178,000 $2.07/gallon Gasoline

$8,090,000 $61.0/barrel low sulfur diesel

$1,890,000 $2.38/gallon jet fuel

$274,333.50 $37.8/metric ton petroleum coke

$81,562.50 $87/long ton sulfur

$194,880 $24.36/barrel Liquefied Petroleum Gas

$592,769 $118.55/barrel propylene

$153,720 $51.24/barrel butane

$86,490 $57.66/barrel isobutane

$23,783,755 Total:

Table 1.5: Product Daily Pricing.


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Given $23 million in revenue, and $15 million in crude costs, this yields a gross

profitability of approximately $8 million/day, or $2.6 billion/operating year.

A cash flow diagram was performed over a 14 year period, with a discounted rate

of 10%, and an assumed working capital of 20% of Fixed Capital Investment. The tax

rate was assumed at 40%, and the discount rate at 10%. An operating year was assumed

at 8160 hours, or 340 days, yielding a stream factor of 0.93. Table 1.6 shows the

Discounted Cash Flow Diagram. The cash flow analysis on Figure 2.6 shows that the

expansion will break even after the 4th year of operations.

Table 1.6: Discounted Cash Flows

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Figure 2.6: Cash Flow Diagram.

Environmental Permitting and Safety Concerns

Permitting

Permit No. 26638 lists the maximum allowable emissions rate for air contaminants

generated by the plant. It lists the lb/hr and TPY (tons per year) concentration as shown in

Table 1.7 These values are under the assumption that the plant will operate 365 days per

year (24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year) for a total of 8760 hours per

year. Converting the listed lb/hr to TPY and vice versa paints a better picture as to how

much the plant can emit. Converting the listed lb/hr to TPY shows that if the plant were to

operate at the maximum allowable hourly emission rate, then it would exceed the
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maximum allowable yearly rate. Converting the listed TPY to lb/hr calculates a

recommended hourly emission to ensure that the plant stays within regulation. Following

this new lb/hr value is recommended, but it is possible to exceed it as long as the maximum

allowable listed rate is not exceeded.

lb/hr according to TPY TPY according to lb/hr Contaminant


TPY (recommended) lb/hr

15.09 66.09 157.07 35.86 Gasoline


0.484 2.12 24.572 5.61 Diesel
1.72 7.54 13.14 3 NOX
4.31 18.86 35.04 8 CO
0.023 0.01 0.0438 0.01 VOC
0.0114 0.05 0.0438 0.01 Fugitive
Table 1.7: Allowable Emission rates in TPY

Reformer Area

The hydrotreater right before the furnace is responsible for removing impurities

from the feedstock, primarily sulfur and nitrogen. The hydrotreater uses catalysts from a

broad class of molybdenum sulfide catalysts. Nitrogen is also removed since it can alter

the metallic properties of the platinum and result in leaching of chloride when in water.

Sulfur can be removed from hydrocarbon streams by reaction with Hydrogen over the

catalyst. The hydrodesulphurization reaction consumes hydrogen and generates hydrogen

sulfide.
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The hydrogen sulfide is then removed from the gas stream by washing with an

amine solution. This creates sour water. It is then sent to a Claus process unit in another

part of the plant, where the hydrogen sulfide is converted to elemental sulfur.

For the reformer itself, there are 3 emission points regardless of the type of catalyst

regeneration is used (either semi-regenerative, cyclic, or continuous). They are the initial

depressurization and purge vent, the coke burn pressure control vent, and the final catalyst

purge vent.

The initial depressurization and purge cycle removes hydrocarbons from the

catalyst prior to the catalysts regeneration for the reformer. The vent gases from this initial

purge may have high levels of organic Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) such as benzene

and toluene.

The coke burn cycle is usually the largest emission source for the overall catalyst

regeneration cycle. The primary HAP’s are hydrochloric acid and chlorine. Caustic

injection or caustic scrubbing may be used in the flue gas recirculation line to remove HCl.

These removal techniques are implemented both protect the process equipment and to

reduce HCl emissions from the coke burn vent.

The final purge and reduction cycle removes oxygen and any remaining

chlorination agent from the system and reduces the catalyst prior to returning reformer

catalyst to the reforming process or bringing the unit back online. The vent gases may have

low levels of the chlorinating agent and residual HCl or Cl2 remaining in the system. This
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vent is typically vented to the atmosphere or the refinery’s fuel gas system depending on

the oxygen content of the vent gases or directly vented to a combustion device.

The TCEQ has placed NOx emissions specifications for process heaters for the

Beaumont-Port Arthur area that will be applicable to the furnace. It can be found under

Texas Administrative Code §117.105(3)(b)(2). This section of the codes lists specific NOx

emissions rate for various types of process heaters. The Texas Administrative Code lists

the NOx maximum emissions rate for a variety of process heaters depending on either the

preheat temperature or the firebox temperature.

In addition, the EPA also has its own set of regulations for catalytic reforming

units. Code §63.1566 and §63.1567, or MACT UUU, specify the regulations for catalytic

reforming units for organic and inorganic HAPs respectively. These codes reference

certain tables that are also a part of the code. The most often referenced tables are Table

15 to subpart UUU of Part 63 and Table 16 to Subpart UUU of Part 63 for §63.1566 and

Table 22 to subpart UUU of Part 63 Table 23 to subpart UUU of Part 63 and Table 25 to

subpart UUU of Part 63 for §63.1567.

Atmospheric and Vacuum Still

Air emissions from atmospheric distillation include heater stack gas (CO, SOx,

NOx, hydrocarbons and particulates), vents and fugitive emissions (hydrocarbons). Air

emissions from vacuum distillation include steam ejector emissions (hydrocarbons),

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heater stack gas (CO, SOx, NOx, hydrocarbons and particulates), vents and fugitive

emissions (hydrocarbons).

Vacuum distillation operations can cause both atmospheric and wastewater

pollution. The fractionator’s vacuum system is the main source of atmospheric emissions

from vacuum distillation operations. The gases removed from the vacuum still by the

vacuum system are passed through a barometric or surface condenser. Here, steam and

some of the vapors are condensed. Hydrocarbons which do not condense within such a

condenser are called noncondensables. The quantity of noncondensables is related to the

final water temperature obtained in the condenser; the lower the temperature within the

condenser, the lower the volume of noncondensables. These noncondensables are a

source of atmospheric hydrocarbon emissions.

Wastewater from vacuum distillation operations comes from three major sources.

The first is water along with the noncondensables present within the crude that is drawn

from the vacuum column by the steam jets to the barometric or surface condensers. In the

condenser, water separates from the condensed hydrocarbons and can be discharged to

the wastewater system. The hydrocarbon liquid is usually sent to a slop (oily water) tank

or recycled to the crude oil desalter. The water phase is a major source of sulfides,

especially when sour crudes are being processed.

The second source of aqueous waste is the very stable oil emulsions formed

within steam ejectors or vacuum jets and barometric condensers used to create the

reduced pressure in vacuum distillation units. This problem is eliminated when

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barometric condensers are replaced with surface condensers. Steam stripping to separate

the distillation products is the third source for wastewater.

EPA code 40 CFR 419.42 lists the effluent limitations representing the degree of

effluent reduction attainable by the application of the best practicable control technology

currently available for any existing point source except as provided in 40 CFR 125.30

through 125.32 There are two values, one is the maximum limit for any 1 day and the

other is the average of daily values for 30 consecutive days. These values are presented in

metric (kilograms per 1000 m3 of feedstock) and English units (pounds per 1000 bbl of

feedstock). For example, the maximum daily average of sulfides present in the effluent is

0.118 pounds per 1000 bbl of feedstock and the thirty-day average of sulfides present in

the effluent is 0.053 pounds per 1000 bbl of feedstock

Safety concerns

The most significant safety hazards occur during the operational phase of a

petroleum refining facility include chemical release, process safety, fires, and explosions.

Implementing good safety practices not only saves money, but it ensures the safety of

workers and the community in the surrounding area.

Chemical release is the most reported incident and is always occurring. Upon

conducting event tree analysis, chemical release could be either contained or disposed of

safely or it would lead to catastrophic fires or explosions. U.S. Chemical Safety Board

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(CSB) has reviewed and updated 125 incidents reported in 2012 in the United States.

Figure 2.7 depicts the classifications of these incidents by type of the event. It can be seen

that chemical release has the most number of occurrence of 77 incidents. Fires come next

with 37 incidents, which might be caused by chemical release. Other events like

overpressure, tank failure, hot work, and explosion have less chances of occurrence with

5, 3, 2, 1 numbers of incidents reported respectively.

Figure 2.7: Incidents by type of event

Since market demand changes over the time, flowrates of feed and products

change as well. It is essential to maintain that change within the designed operating

conditions ranges to ensure the safety of the process and equipment. Routine inspection

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for equipment is always scheduled and carried on along the year. Some equipment must

be checked weekly whereas others are checked monthly or on any other basis.

Maintenance of equipment is important. It can be preventive or predictive. Preventive

maintenance is routinely done to keep an equipment in perfect condition. Predictive

maintenance is conducted to account for potential known damage to an equipment. It is

also important to have robust control system that works smart and fast enough to keep up

with changes in flowrate, temperature, or pressure changes. It is equally important, when

designing a process, to install safety equipment such as check valves, relief systems, etc.

Relief systems are the last line of defense that designed to prevent damaging the

equipment.

Fire and explosion are the principal hazards at refineries for many reasons. One

reason is that because of processing of products with low flash points. Another reason is

because heaters and exchangers can be sources of ignition. Some hydrocarbons ignite

when contact with oxygen in air and don’t need a source of ignition. Moreover, crude oil

contain sulfur which can cause crack in steel due to corrosion and leads to leakage.

Two major incidents, Tesoro Refinery explosion and Chevron Richmond Refinery

fire are considered while designing this project. These incidents found to be good study

cases specially that there are many sources of information on their causes and effects.

Tesoro Refinery Explosion, 2010

The Tesoro Refinery explosion is an example that directly relates to this situation. High
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temperature hydrogen attack (HTHA) caused the nearly 40-year-old heat exchanger to

rupture and a large fire resulted. The pipe failure at Richmond, and the vessel failure at

Tesoro both could have been avoided with proper inspection, or with a material of

construction that is more resistant to sulfidation corrosion and HTHA, such as 316 stainless

steel. This steel is expensive however, and only having vessels which are most prone to the

conditions discussed above should be considered for construction with 316 stainless steel

or materials like it.

Chevron Richmond Refinery Fire, 2012

The Naphtha Processing Complex involves a naphtha hydrotreating unit, a light

naphtha isomerization unit, and a heavy naphtha reformer unit. The biggest risk to

personnel and equipment is the event of a chemical release. This complex is prone to

corrosion due to the presence of sulfur, especially before the hydrotreating unit’s reactor.

Corrosion if left unchecked can weaken piping and vessels to the point of failure. An

example of this type of corrosion, called sulfidation corrosion, can be seen at the Chevron

Richmond Refinery fire that occurred on August 6, 2012. This example involves the

formation of a vapor cloud consisting of light gas oil which resulted in a massive fire.

However, if the pipe had been filled with a more volatile component, such as naphtha, then

a vapor cloud explosion could have resulted. All the units in the NPC involve continuous

flows of hydrogen gas. The NPC has units that are operating at high temperatures and

pressures.

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Upon reviewing past incidents and applying engineering knowledge, it is highly

important to implement and strictly follow the safety measures. As a recommendation to

avoid the discussed incidents, always to inspect the equipment, pipes thoroughly. In

addition, choosing a material of construction for each process that suites its operating

condition is to be considered. Lastly, study reported refineries incidents to learn from

history.

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APPENDIX A. CRUDE ASSAYS

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APPENDIX B. Aspen Process Flow Diagram

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Reference List

Antos, G. J., & Aitani, A. M. (2004). Catalytic naphtha reforming. New York: Marcel Dekker.

Fogler, H. S. (2016). Elements of chemical reaction engineering. Boston: Prentice Hall.

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