October 2006

Special Report: Process Control and Information Systems

Controlling hydrocracker reactor temperature

Avoid safety incidents and runaway reactions

Shepard, B., Invensys

Reactor temperature controls and safety instrumented systems (SISs) are used in the hydrocracking process found in many refineries. Hydrocracking is a catalytic process where cracking of carbon-carbon single bonds and hydrogenation of carbon-carbon double bonds are complementary. Cracking provides olefins for hydrogenation while hydrogenation provides heat for cracking. The cracking reaction is exothermic and the hydrogenation reaction is endothermic. The reaction actually provides excess heat because the amount of heat released by the exothermic hydrogenation reactions is much greater than the amount of heat consumed by the endothermic cracking reactions. This surplus heat causes the reac

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