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INDMAX which stands for Indane Maximisation is a high severity catalytic cracking process
exclusively developed by Indian Oil Corporation R & D centre to produce very high yield of
LPG from various hydrocarbon fractions viz; Naphtha to Residue. This unit was installed in
the year 2003 with a capacity of 0.1MMPTA.The process employs proprietary catalyst
formulations having excellent metal tolerance with coke and dry gas selectivity. The
operating conditions of the unit are such that the liquid hydrocarbon products selectively get
overcracked to LPG containing fractions of C3 and C4 olefins without proportionate increase
in dry gas and coke. The process is similar to that of conventional FCC with major
differences in catalyst to oil ratio, operating conditions, catalyst formulation and catalyst
make-up rate. The process operates at a reaction temperature of 530-600oC, catalyst to oil
ratio in the range of 15-25 (wt/wt) with higher riser steam in the range of 10-15 wt% of feed.

Special features that distinguish INDMAX unit from FCC unit are:

1) High yield of LPG (40-65 wt % of feed)

2) Very high catalyst to oil ratio coupled with higher reaction temperature for severe

3) Novel catalyst formulation (IMX-50) for high yield of LPG, low coke, low dry gas and
very high vanadium resistance.

4) Wide flexibility in feed stock (Naphtha to heavy residue).

The INDMAX Catalyst consists of three major components as summarized below:
1. Component-A: Medium pore pentasil zeolite.

2. Component-B: Consists of partially or fully ultra-stabilized Y-zeolite with specified Rare

Earth metals, active silica-alumina based matrix and binder.

3. Component-C: Mostly contains large pore/mesoporous acidic non-crystalline active



Major Sections:

 Feed storage and pumping section

 Reactor and regenerator section
 Fractionation section
 Gas Concentration section
 LPG/Gasoline treatment section

1. FEED STORAGE and PUMPING SECTION: Feed to the INDMAX unit consists of the
following: Coker Fuel Oil (CFO), Reduced Crude Oil(RCO) and Coker Gasoline(CG) in
various proportions. CG feed received from tanks (capacity 1300 kL each) at a temperature of
40oC is pumped by CG feed pump (P-02 A/B) and directly injected in the bottom of the riser
through nozzle. The feed stream CFO supplied from tanks (capacity 1000kL each) and RCO
from tanks (capacity 5000kL each) as received at battery limit at 70oC and atmospheric
pressure are pumped by RCO/CFO feed pump mixed by static mixer and sent to Feed surge
drum. The mixed feed which is at a temperature of 70oC in V-01 is pumped by mixed feed
pump to HP steam heater (E-08) followed by feed/MCB exchanger(E-01A/B) for exchanging
heat with Main Column( C-01) bottom liquid, which then gets heated to 180oC. This feed is
injected into the riser through a dedicated mixed feed nozzle.

2. REACTOR-REGENERATION SECTION: The reactor regeneration section has the

following four sub-sections:

 Catalyst Handling and Loading

 Riser, Reactor and Stripper
 Regenerator
 Flue Gas Waste Heat Recovery

Catalyst Handling and Loading: The catalyst unloading facility is an enclosed storage
building. The catalyst and additives of 1000kg per pellets are transported with the help of
monorail provided in the catalyst unloading facility area and unloaded in catalyst unloading
hopper. The catalyst fluidised with dry aeration air is transported to the fresh catalyst hopper.
The continuation of flow is observed by watch glass on the catalytic transfer line. During

loading of catalyst to the hopper, the fresh catalyst hopper is kept at vacuum by connecting to
the catalyst loading steam ejector with silencer. The vacuum level is maintained at about
200mm Hg and MP steam at 9 kg/cm2g pressure. The catalyst hopper is kept under pressure
(4-4.5 kg/cm2g) with process air during catalyst loading to the regenerator. Fresh catalyst
injection is necessary despite catalyst regeneration to make up for catalyst losses due to
slippage of certain amount in the stack and product as fines. Although catalyst fines are not
desired for the reaction, they certainly help in fluidization of the catalyst. Circulation of the
catalyst which is a pressure driven process is controlled by the wet gas compressor. Catalyst
levels in the regenerator are measured by measuring the pressure difference between the two
heights in the regenerator.

Riser, Reactor and Stripper: The regenerated catalyst from the regenerator is circulated to
the bottom of the vertical riser through regenerated catalyst standpipe. The regenerated
catalyst enters the riser at about 686oC. The regenerated catalyst slide valve controls the
catalyst flow based on riser top temperature. The catalyst is fluidised at the bottom of the
riser with stabilized steam which enters through the nozzle. The CG feed enters at a
temperature of 40oC and is sprayed into the riser uniformly through the CG nozzle.

The mixed feed coming from the preheat train(053-E-01A/B) at 180oC enters riser bottom
just above the CG feed entry point through mixed feed nozzles which are installed around the
riser so that uniform distribution of mixed hydrocarbon feed vapors in riser takes place. In
order to maintain low hydrocarbon partial pressure in riser and to reduce residence time of
reactants, dilution steam is injected through a dedicated dilution steam nozzle( 053-SP-
17A/B) located on riser well above mixed feed nozzles, enabling significant reduction in
thermal cracking. As soon as feed comes in contact with hot catalyst, it vaporizes, heats up to
reaction temperature and cracking reaction which is endothermic starts immediately and the
hot catalyst supplies required heat. Catalyst gets deactivated due to formation of coke which
eventually gets deposited on catalyst during cracking reaction. The catalyst along with
hydrocarbon product vapour enters the riser cyclone mounted inside the reactor. It separates
about 99% of catalyst from product vapors. Catalyst fines escaping from riser cyclone enters
the reactor cyclone wherein further separation of catalyst from product vapors occurs. This
catalyst contains coke and absorbed hydrocarbon vapors which are entrained in pores of each
catalyst particle and in void spaces between catalyst particles. These hydrocarbons are
removed in the stripper using steam as a stripping media.

Regenerator: Coke laden catalyst from stripper needs to be regenerated to restore its activity
so that it becomes ready for the next cracking cycle. Since burning of coke is an exothermic
reaction, lot of heat is generated in the regenerator. This hot catalyst is the means of
transferring the heat from the regenerator to the riser/reactor. Energy required to vaporize the
feed and the endothermic heat of reaction is supplied by the hot catalyst. Catalyst
regeneration is important as inadequate catalyst regeneration results in reduced dynamic
activity of catalyst, which in turns affects product distribution. Care must be taken to prevent
the incomplete conversion of coke to CO and subsequent oxidation of CO to CO2 as the heat
generated in such a reactor is too much to handle and may damage the reactor. The
regenerator also acts like a surge vessel and most of the catalyst inventory of the reactor-
regenerator system is present in the regenerator. Coke deposition is temporary deactivation
but vanadium poisoning may result in permanent deactivation of catalyst. In order to make up
for permanent deactivation and other catalyst losses, fresh catalyst addition is required. Air is
provided to the regenerator using a main air blower (MAB). Air from the MAB enters the air
heater at a temperature of 230oC where it is heated before entering the regeneration section.
The regenerated heated catalyst is sent to the riser through a regenerated catalyst slide valve
(RCSV). The off gases leave the regenerator top at about 0.39kg/cm2 and at a temperature of
about 665oC. This then passes through the orifice chamber (used to maintain the back
pressure and to regulate the smooth opening and closing of DDSV (Double Disc Slide
Valve)). The orifice chamber operates at a pressure difference of 1.58kg/cm2 and temperature
of 695oC. The flue gases from the orifice chamber are routed to the waste heat boiler. The
boiler utilises the heat from the flue gases in generation of steam from boiler feed water.

Flue Gas Waste Heat Recovery: The flue gases from the orifice chamber are at a
temperature of about 700-720 oC . The sensible heat of this flue gas is utilized for generating
superheated steam. The boiler feed water at 105oC and 45 kg/cm2g is passed through BFW
pre heater coils where it exchanges heat with the flue gas exiting the waste heat recovery
section. This preheated BFW is fed to the steam drum in which the water level is maintained.
Steam at 38kg/cm2g is generated in the steam generator and superheated at 450oC in steam
superheater which at 38kg/cm2g is exported to HP steam header at the battery limit. A portion
of the BFW from the steam drum is also blown to the blow down drum. The flue gas, on the
other hand, cools down to about 150oC after passing through heat recovery coils which is
then vented to the atmosphere through flue gas stack.

3. FRACTIONATION SECTION: The reactor effluent, comprising of cracked

hydrocarbon vapours, steam and inert gas at a temperature of 530 oC and a pressure of
1.5kg/cm2g enters the main column at tray number 30, where the superheated vapors along
with inerts are cooled and heavier product gets condensed. The small amount of entrained
catalyst in the product vapors is scrubbed out, which drops to the bottom along with the
condensed product. The main fractionator’s column consists of 22 valve trays(separation
section) and 8 disc trays for heat transfer (quench section). The temperature at the bottom of
the fractionation column must be maintained below 360oC in order to prevent coke formation.
The main fractionator’s bottom liquid is pumped by main column bottom pump to MCB
exchanger to cool the bottom liquid to around 316oC thereby preventing coke formation. A
part of the cooled liquid is sent back to tray 22 of fractionator’s column as quench column.
The bottom product of main fractionators is clarified oil(CLO) which is further cooled in
CLO cooler before being sent to rundown. Total Crude Oil (TCO) is a side cut from the main
fractionator which flows to the TCO stripper (CL-2) where it is stripped of any light
components using steam as the stripping media. The stripped TCO is pumped on flow control
and cooled first with HP separator liquid and subsequently with cooling water.The overhead
vapours from the main fractionators column consisting of lighter hydrocarbons and gasoline
along with steam and inert gas is cooled down using four air fin coolers, condensed in the
fractionators overhead condenser and routed to the reflux drum, where the gas separates out.
A part of the condensed hydrocarbon is returned to the top tray of the fractionators as reflux,
with the remaining part being pumped as lean oil to the primary absorber. The vapour part is
sent to the wet gas compressor for gas concentration.

4. GAS CONCENTRATION SECTION: The main purpose of this section is to separate

dry gas, LPG and stabilized gasoline from wet gas and unstabilized gasoline. The vapour part
from the reflux drum at 38oC heads to the wet gas compressor with compression occurring in
two stages with interstage cooler in between. The compressed streams from the two stages at
pressures of 25kg/cm2 and 15kg/cm2 are combined and sent to the high pressure separator
along with a bottom stream from the primary absorber. In the high pressure separator, the
separation of liquid and vapour phase occurs again. The vapours consisting mainly of steam
and inert gases with some hydrocarbon vapours is sent to the primary absorber from where
the top product at a temperature of 45oC is sent to the sponge absorber. The overhead product
of the sponge absorber is the fuel gas export and the bottom product is recycled to the main
fractionator. A stream of TCO is also sent to the sponge absorber to prevent the slippage of

any desired content for LPG and gasoline in the fuel gas. The liquid part of the HP separator
consisting mainly of the LPG and gasoline components is sent to the de-ethaniser where a
stream of CLO is added to prevent the escape of any C4+ component. The bottom product
from the ethaniser flows to the butaniser, where the top product is LPG and the bottom
product is gasoline which is sent to the 3-cuts splitter where this gasoline is split into 3 cuts.
The top product comprising the light cut and the bottom product comprising the heavy cut are
combined to obtain the final product. The heart cut serves as the feed for the MSQU unit.

LPG/ Gasoline Treatment Section : The LPG is mixed with caustic solution (fresh caustic
solution of 12% strength) pumped by LPG caustic circulation pump and sent to LPG caustic
wash water vessel through a mixing valve and a LPG caustic static mixer which ensures
proper mixing of LPG and caustic solution. The caustic absorbs sulphur and mercaptans in
this vessel and is pumped out to battery limit by a pump. After caustic wash, LPG is sent to to
LPG wash water vessel where water removes traces of caustic from LPG after which LPG at
15kg/cm2 and 40oC is sent to battery limit as LPG rundown product. Spent water is degassed
in LPG drain degasser drum. Degasses water is sent to OWS and gas sent to the flare.

The stabilized gasoline is similarly mixed with caustic solution after coming from exchanger
which is then pumped by Gasoline caustic circulation pump and is sent for caustic wash in
gasoline caustic wash vessel through a mixing valve followed by water wash in gasoline
wash water vessel.The water washed gasoline then mixes with the required amount of
antioxidant pumped by antioxidant pump from antioxidant vessel and taken out at 3 kg/cm2
and 40oC which heads to battery limit as gasoline product.Water is sent to OWS and spent
caustic is routed to degasser drum.

5. REACTIONS: Coke formed on the catalyst mainly consists of carbon and hydrogen
which are oxidised during regeneration. The exothermic reactions involving the above change

C + (1/2) O2 CO

C+O2 CO2

H2 + (1/2) O2 H2O

CO + (1/2) O2 CO2 + ∆

Air is supplied through a motor driven centrifugal type Main Air Blower(MAB) equipped
with an air filter in the suction line which discharges air at about 247 oC and 3.5kg/cm2g
pressure. The discharge header is provided with the blower antisurge controller which
actuates a control valve venting air to atmosphere. The vent line has a silencer to control the
noise level of blowing air.


Direct Fired Air Heater Inlet Temperature 230oC

Orifice chamber pressure 1.58kg/cm2
Regenerator pressure 2.1kg/cm2
Regenerator temperature 695oC
Reactor pressure 1.69kg/cm2
Reactor exit temperature 540oC
Main Fractionating Column inlet 530oC
Main column exit top temperature 108oC
Suction pressure of wet gas compressor 0.96kg/cm2
Discharge pressure of wet gas compressor 15kg/cm2
Suction temperature of wet gas compressor 30oC
Discharge temperature of wet gas 114oC
De-ethaniser Reflux temperature 128oC
De-butaniser Reflux temperature 50-54oC
3-cut Splitter inlet temperature 171oC