September 2004

Special Report: Refining Developments

Consider retrofits to handle high-viscosity crudes

Refiners must fine-tune crude unit process design and energy balance to process a heavy feedslate

Barletta, T., Process Consulting Services, Inc.; Kurzym, K. J., ConocoPhillips

In 2000, the ConocoPhillips' Sweeny, Texas, refinery began processing 16° API gravity blends of extra-heavy crude oils including Merey 16 and BCF 17. Heavy crudes have higher viscosity, are harder to desalt, can have higher naphthenic acid content, and are more difficult to vaporize in the atmospheric and vacuum crude columns.1?3 Moreover, these crude oils have higher microcarbon residue (MCR) and asphaltenes. Many contain extremely high levels of volatile metals that produce heavy vacuum gas oil (HVGO) products containing 5 ? 10 ppmw vanadium even at moderate cutpoints.4?6 Consequently, refiners that process low-crude API gravities (5 ? 15°) experience a common set of problems. To

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