IRPC Process '21: FCC processing of bio-based feeds

By Adrienne Blume, Executive Editor

Closing out Day 1 of IRPC Process were Grace Catalysts Technologies' Bob Riley, Director of Energy Transition and Sustainability and Dr. Ken Bryden, Director of Catalyst Evaluation, Research and Services, FCC. Riley and Dr. Bryden discussed co-processing of bio-based feedstocks in the FCC unit.

The first and most important step in the process of incorporating renewable feedstocks in a petroleum refinery is to determine what type of bio-based feed will be processed, along with the quality and quantity of the feed, the security of supply and the variability of feed quality. Next, the customer must choose the processing route and determine if any new equipment or regulatory permits are needed to achieve this processing route.

The desired process then must be studied, scaled up, tested and evaluated both technically and economically before it can be implemented at commercial scale and operation. Lastly, a permanent installation deploys the chosen process modifications for renewable fuel processing, and regulatory credits are incorporated.

"The FCC is often considered as an option in co-processing," Riley noted. "There is a large amount of flexibility built into today's FCCs based on the 80-year evolution of the process, from the unique heat management system and the heat balance, which allows us to consider co-processing without needing to design around additional heat removal or addition; to sophisticated product treating systems downstream of the FCC; to a system that allows us to deal with catalyst contamination or deactivation events in an online manner, without having to take the entire unit down."

Dr. Bryden next explained how characterization of the feed is essential to reduce risk and ensure that things go right at the commercial scale. The chemistry and expected yields of the feed must be first understood before it can be selected for a particular process configuration.

A feed's stability and interaction with petroleum-based feeds must be studied, along with its detailed composition, to avoid contamination issues downstream of the process. Dr. Bryden also explained the detailed testing methods Grace uses to ascertain the suitability of bio-based feeds for refinery co-processing, along with lessons learned from past pilot plant tests.

In general, Dr. Bryden explained, petroleum refineries are easily able to co-process vegetable oils and fats, although biomass-based pyrolysis oils remain a challenge. The success of co-processing other feeds varies with experience.

"While renewable co-processing has its challenges, it can be successfully done," Dr. Bryden concluded. "Grace is routinely supplying multiple customers around the world who are currently co-processing more than 10% renewable feedstock to their FCC units."

IRPC Process runs from June 2–3 and on demand for one year after the event. To view the entirety of Bob Riley and Dr. Ken Bryden's presentation, please visit the IRPC Process event page to view the event agenda and register for live and on-demand access to all speaker presentations.


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