September 2022

The 2000s

HP Flashback: Excerpts from 2000–2022: Decarbonization, digital transformation, integration and reliability

The following is a mixture of technical articles, columns and headlines published in the 2000s by Hydrocarbon Processing. This collection of excerpts provides a look into the major technological advancements and topics/trends in the hydrocarbon processing industry during that timeframe.

Nichols, Lee, Hydrocarbon Processing Staff

HP Insight: A new era for the HPI

S. Romanow, January 2000

Will the new millennium push the HPI into a new era? For many years, we have discussed how the HPI would become a global industry. It has evolved into a globalized industry. So, how did it happen? Much of the metamorphosis is directly attributed to technological breakthroughs, especially in information technologies. Developments in PCs, communication systems, information-management technologies and software removed barriers to collecting, utilizing and transfer of real-time data. The internet has had the most profound effect in a short time span. It has erased more barriers and enabled access to tremendous information sources.

Improve startup of an olefins complex

K. Bush, G. Duarte and A. Pohlmann, June 2000

What are the critical elements affecting an olefins unit startup—engineering/design techniques, license technologies, construction activities, training of operators, composing precommissioning/operating procedures, site support/involvement from equipment venders, etc.? All these listed factors—in varying degrees—will influence the design, construction, precommissioning and startup of a new plant. This article provides a successful startup of COPESUL’s olefins plant in Triunfo, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Project alliance delivers “green fuels”

M. Entwistle and P. Watson, February 2001

The growing worldwide trend towards tightening of gasoline and diesel fuel specifications around the world has created an opportunity for leadership in the delivery of clean fuels. This article details bp’s $500-MM Queensland Clean Fuels Project in Brisbane, Australia and how several entities worked together to build a highly integrated clean-fuels refinery ahead of schedule.

Acoustic fatigue in large turbocompressors and pressure reduction systems

L. E. Blodgett and D. E. Jungbauer, August 2001

Predicting the potential for acoustic fatigue in piping systems associated with pressure reducing systems in the design stage has received much attention. Based on theory and empirical measurements, a near-field sound pressure level screening method has been developed for evaluating piping systems. This article presents a case history that incorporates the use of the near-field noise screening criterion for risk assessment in an existing installation. This screening criterion will enable users to assess the risk and severity of acoustic fatigue, leading to safer systems and help to determine the need for additional measurements and analysis.

Improve estimations for dynamic pressure waves from an explosion

S. A. K. Suri and I. Chowdhury, October 2002

What is the best method to estimate the blast pressure force on buildings and/or structures within a plant facility? Due to the nature and quantities of flammable materials flowing in pipes and stored in tanks and reactors, engineers must estimate the consequences should an explosion occur within a complex hydrocarbon processing plant. Using a polar coordinate system, engineers can estimate risks on buildings and structures during the design phase.

Use PdM to optimize pump overhauls

R. Beebe, April 2003

Pumps are arguably the most common machine in the power and process industries, yet relatively little information is available on applying predictive maintenance (PdM)/condition monitoring. This work provides some basic condition monitoring tests for pumps, along with a case study to show how applying condition monitoring by vibration and performance analysis on a pump solved some problems.

Cybersecurity: Are your computer control systems safe from attack?

P. Baybutt, March 2004

Cybersecurity is an established discipline for commercial and business computer systems but not for manufacturing and process control computer systems in the HPI. Cybersecurity typically has focused on information or data security so it cannot be read or compromised. However, the nature of attacks has changed as technology and opportunities have evolved. If a company does not employ good cyber security, it is imperative to conduct a cybersecurity vulnerability analysis to properly protect crucial systems from attack.

Direct heat recovery of a cogeneration unit saves utilities and reduces emissions

E. Goudappel and J. Sentjens, July 2004

Refineries are faced with drivers pushing their performance to less emissions and higher utility efficiency. Direct heat recovery of a cogeneration unit, by means of a heat recovery unit, maximizes the integration potential, resulting in reduced emissions and utility savings, as well as reducing fouling/coking and an improved energy intensity index.

Trends in laser scanning systems to support revamp/retrofit projects

J. Sanins, December 2004

The growing trend toward retrofit/revamp projects has focused on more cost-effective, cost-efficient ways to capture as-built engineering data directly quickly and accurately from existing facilities. This highly accurate data can then be integrated with 3D computer-aided design (CAD) modeling tools to design new plant features within the existing facility as part of engineering execution.

Model-based predictive control increases batch reactor production

A. Cardete, R. Lucio, R. Martinez, S. Munoz, A. Sanz, J. Papon, C. Ruiz and D. Ruiz, May 2005

After a feasibility study, Repsol YPF decided to apply a model-based predictive controller to a batch reactor producing polyols. The predictive controller for reactors (PCR) is a set of control modules that are designed to face most of the reactor configurations. The important increase of production is a consequence of the better handling of the reactor temperature. Here’s a description of the unit and control objectives, methodology, project steps, results and the corresponding benefits.

Consider modifying your refinery to handle heavy opportunity crude oils

A. Harji, M. Rodwell and R. Henderson, September 2005

The incentive to process heavy, sour crude oil has never been greater, as some regional sour-crude discounts are approaching $20/bbl. Unfortunately, the lower cost crude oils have physical properties that limit their processing at most North American refineries. What modifications are needed for a conventional refinery to capitalize on this potential cost savings? To process high-sulfur crudes, refiners must retrofit older processing units to capitalize on ‘dirty’ feedstocks.

Convert oil sands into distillate cost-effectively

T. Okui, T. Shigehisa, M. Tamura, M. Yasumuro and S. Yui, January 2006

Demand for energy remains robust even at high crude oil prices. Oil sands are new hydrocarbon resources that can be converted into high-quality (low-sulfur) distillates for refining and petrochemical applications. With crude oil prices above $60/bbl, oil sands bitumen is a viable resource that can be refined. New slurry phase hydrocracking and two-step hydrotreating developments have proven to be very successful in upgrading Athabasca oil sands bitumen into low-sulfur, high-cetane distillates. The produced refinery-grade naphtha and heavy gasoil can be readily used as a feed to the catalytic reformer and fluid catalytic cracking unit.

Apply a comprehensive approach to biofuels

M. Koskinen, M. Nurminen and M. Sourander, February 2006

The European Union (EU) is actively defining the total goals and requirements for automotive fuels. As part of this on-going effort, the EU has defined clear targets to increase usage of renewable materials as part of the transportation fuels market. Biomass-based renewable fuels are produced outside of refineries. However, there are profitable opportunities to incorporate bio-mass-based materials into the refining industry. Modern biofuels or components can be produced and used as part of upgrading processes for a refinery.

Improve naphtha quality for olefins cracking

V. L. Bhirud, April 2007

Over 50% of the world’s ethylene capacity is naphtha based. As crude prices increase, so does the cost of naphtha for liquid crackers. Ethylene producers shun naphtha feedstocks containing high-aromatics content. Aromatics provide no net value to the cracking process. Integrating an aromatics-extraction unit with a naphtha hydrotreater can remove the problematic aromatics from heavy feedstreams. Pretreating off-grade naphtha can yield a high-quality feed for liquid olefins crackers.

In pursuit of flawless project execution

J. Caglar and M. Connolly, December 2007

Main automation contractor (MAC) and main electrical contractor (MEC) contracts are becoming the preferred strategy for users looking to satisfy the exacting technical and execution requirements for automation and electrical systems in refineries, petrochemical and gas processing facilities. This article discusses how a MAC/MEC approach that includes technology and solutions, combined with services capabilities and comprehensive project execution, benefits users in today’s flat world.

Smart actuators can prevent valve failure during critical events

E. Carey, November 2008

Smart electric actuators were designed to ensure the critical-service valves can perform when called upon. Developed approximately 15 years ago, smart actuators contain intelligence that used to be included in the control room of plant operations. Today, smart actuators have as much, if not more, intelligence as the old control rooms.

Is nitrogen really inert as a blanketing medium?

K. Luckwal, K. K. Mandal and K. R. Ramakumar, August 2008

Blanketing a drum or a tank with inert gas such as nitrogen is done for various reasons. However, when there are insufficient nitrogen supplies within the refinery, the blanketing medium is changed to the fuel gas mode. During this change, the behavior of various processing conditions changes drastically and requires close monitoring. In general, it is believed that the solubility of gases decreases with increasing temperatures. But that is not always true for all gases; nitrogen behaves differently. We will explore the solubility of nitrogen from the thermodynamics point of view.

Why do I need to inventory greenhouse gas emissions?

D. V. Bubenick, G. M. Combs and A. M. Mazzoccoli, April 2008

Right or wrong, the tide of public opinion has reached such overwhelming proportions that it is now a matter of when, not if, individual petrochemical facilities around the world are going to have to develop inventories of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on a continuing basis. Globally, the EU is already requiring facilities within its member countries to report GHG emissions and to meet reduction targets in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol. Other countries around the world are in the process of implementing similar programs.

What is driving changes in polyolefin catalysts and catalyst technology?

J. Hain, A. Hummel, M. Jensen and A. Myers, April 2008

In 2007, polyolefin demand was two-thirds of total thermoplastic demand or more than 110 MMt. By 2012, polyolefin demand is expected to be almost 150 MMt. Polymer demand grows quickly in developing countries as they move toward a consumer-based economy. While the polyolefin industry enjoys increasing polymer demand and high operating rates, producers face many of the same challenges that threaten the profitability of other industries:

  • Threats from low-cost imports sourced from feedstock-advantaged Middle East producers
  • High natural gas and crude oil prices putting upward pressure on production costs
  • Industry consolidation has created fewer but larger producers who control larger market shares and more assets.
    Traditional ownership by oil and gas companies is not the rule anymore. Financial firms are showing interest in ownership and changing the way these companies are managed.

Are floating LNG facilities viable options?

A. J. Finn, July 2009

Technology developments in offshore LNG storage and transfer have made offshore LNG production commercially viable. Due to rising costs for onshore LNG facilities, floating LNG (FLNG) is cost competitive. Techno-commercial issues associated with floating LNG and how they are resolved will be discussed.

What metals should be used in critical service heat exchangers?

R. Pramanik, August 2009

In heat exchanger applications, titanium (Ti) and its alloys are increasingly replacing copper-nickel alloys as construction materials for seawater service. However, some specific issues related to the design and fabrication of Ti-based shell-and-tube heat exchangers have surfaced. The presented strategies will focus on developing design criteria to optimize heat exchangers without compromising the quality of fabrication. The presented case history will explore issues with special emphasis on the design, material selection and fabrication of various components of shell-and-tube heat exchangers from Ti and Ti alloys.

Improve usage of regenerated refining catalysts

G. J. Yeh, February 2010

A major Middle East oil company uses regenerated hydrocracking catalysts up to three regenerations by ex-situ and regenerated semi-regen naphtha reforming catalysts up to 10 regenerations by in-situ. This article explores common practices in the refining industry regarding the application of regenerated hydrotreating, hydrocracking and semi-regen naphtha reforming catalysts. Presented guidelines over regenerated catalysts show how refiners can save by using regenerated catalysts or enhance revenue by using the fresh catalysts.

Improving pH control mitigates corrosion in crude units

D. L. N. Cypriano, J. A. C. Ponciano, A. T. Vilas Boas, P. D. Murray and M. R. Nasser, March 2011

For crude-unit overhead systems, pH is the main process parameter that impacts corrosion rates. To control corrosion conditions, many operators use various neutralizers at optimum ranges determined by site-specific conditions. A four-year study (2005–2008) was conducted at a Petrobras refinery using amine-blend solutions to control pH. Over this period, corrosion rates were measured through ultrasonic inspections and weight-loss coupons. This investigation proved that maintaining a low chloride level and stable pH levels were the most effective ways to control equipment damage from corrosion.

Overcome challenges in treating shale gases

R. H. Weiland and N. A. Hatcher, January 2012

Shale represents an astonishingly large, new source of natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs). However, a common misconception seems to be that, for the most part, shale gases are sweet and do not need to be treated. Shale gas tends to have considerable variations from play to play and even from well to well within the same play. This article describes several challenges in processing shale gas and how to overcome them.

Alternative feedstock options for petrochemicals: A roadmap

M. O. Garg, S. K. Ganguly and S. Sen, April 2012

Following the economic slowdown in the U.S. and Europe, a gradual demand shift has occurred from west of the Suez to east of the Suez. Asia-Pacific nations are the areas for energy and petrochemical-based product demand growth. After China, India is the next growth hub for chemicals. A steadily growing middle class is a significant driver in India’s economy and supports new petrochemical/chemical consumption. This young population with rising incomes is responsible for growing demand for consumer durable goods, such as automobiles and packaging. Petrochemicals constitute over 20% of the total chemical sector output—63% as polymers and 29% as synthetic fibers. To satisfy demand, new hydrocarbons will be needed to meet future demand.

Maximize diesel production in an FCC-centered refinery

P. K. Niccum, September 2012

For refineries with an FCC unit as the main conversion vehicle, ongoing debate is how existing refinery assets can best be used to economically increase diesel production. This article presents methodologies for maximizing the production of high-quality diesel in a refinery that relies on FCC as its principal means of heavy oil conversion.

Use 3D visualization to improve refinery engineering and design

S. Bennett, June 2013

One of the most significant outcomes of rapidly increasing computing power has been in 3D visualization. Technology involving 3D visualization has long been essential to the work of the engineering designer, but lush visual rendering has historically been sacrificed for more immediately productive uses of available processing power, such as responsiveness and sophisticated clash detection. However, to overlook the potential of realistic 3D representation is to miss an opportunity to increase design productivity and quality.

A biofuels roadmap for Europe to 2030

A. Bauen, February 2014

What will the transport sector use as an energy source in 2030? If you answered gas, electricity or hydrogen, you could be on the right track. These sources are becoming increasingly useful to meet clean energy requirements.

Improve execution of capital projects with advanced technologies

A. A. Avidan, December 2014

The engineering and construction (E&C) of capital projects has changed significantly over the past few decades. These changes have been driven by advanced information technologies, which have also had major impacts on all aspects of our lives. These developments involve how project information is managed and handled and include CAD, transition to building information modeling, the cloud, VR, big data, the Internet of Things and robotics, among others.

Use cloud-based document collaboration to complete projects

S. Baird, February 2015

Capital and maintenance projects require the management of thousands of documents, which can be more easily accomplished with cloud-based solutions.

How Cr compounds discolor refractory brick walls of an ethylene cracking furnace

A. Al-Meshari, M. Maity and E. Al-Zahrani, April 2015

Unusual pink coloration was noticed on the entire refractory brick wall in the radiant section of an ethylene cracking furnace of a petrochemical plant. The results of examinations and analyses showed that the deposition of chromium (Cr) species on the refractory wall appeared to originate from the radiant alloy tubes and contributed to the pink coloration of the refractory brick wall. The suspected cause was the spontaneous formation of chromium oxide on the tubes at high temperature, followed by oxidative vaporization that was likely due to the increase of the tube metal temperature to values above design.

How to cost-effectively adapt to a tight oil world

D. Lindsay, M. Griffiths, A. Sabitov, D. Sioui and B. Glover, July 2015

The increase in domestic production of light tight oil (LTO) has resulted in rapid shifts to processing these crudes in North American (NA) refineries. LTOs typically have a much higher content of light material compared to the traditional light sweet crudes that most NA refineries have processed. While these domestic crudes offer lower-cost raw materials, there are inherent limits to the amount of LTOs that can be processed by installed assets. These limits can result from the additional light content or from feed quality parameters, such as the high paraffin content that is characteristic of most LTOs. Addressing these limitations will enable capturing the higher value from LTOs.

Utilize an optimizer to blend gasoline directly to ships

W. Scriven, A. Martin and D. S. Seiver, June 2016

A new control system and single-blend optimization system make it possible to blend gasoline directly into tanker ships for delivery, rather than only into tanks, thereby saving millions in capital and reducing product giveaway.

Optimize a CDU using process simulation and statistical modeling methods

J. Bird, D. Seillier and E. Piazza, October 2016

A methodology was implemented to optimize the operation of a refinery crude distillation unit using a combination of process simulation and statistical modeling methods. The primary objective was to estimate a set of operating targets for column pumparound and bottoms stripping steam flows. These targets were established to maximize the unit profitability over a typical range of crude rate and crude quality operating conditions.

Shift to gas: A contribution on the path to sustainability

E. Koenig, January 2017

The COP21 event left the world with new mandates to develop and implement low-emissions energy sources to power the global economy. To limit global warming, the world must increase the use of resources like natural gas, which offers a quick, relatively clean and inexpensive interim step in the global transition from high-emissions resources to renewable energy sources.

HF alkylation conversion is finally within reach

J. Nunez and S. Presley, September 2017

The predominant alkylation technologies utilized by refiners require either sulfuric acid or hydrofluoric acid (HF) to catalyze the reaction. Due to the volatile and toxic nature of HF, refiners have long sought out cost-effective solutions to convert HF alkylation units to safer sulfuric acid alkylation technology. However, with the perceived high cost of conversion and a lack of a regulatory requirement to make this change, refiners have yet to convert an HF alkylation unit to a sulfuric acid alkylation unit. At present, HF conversion is finally within reach thanks to the development of cost-effective and proven technologies.

Preparing for a sea change in global refining

C. Follette and J. Ruiz-Cabrero, November 2017

Beginning in 2020, the new IMO regulations will reduce the limit of sulfur content in marine fuel from 3.5% to 0.5%. In turn, this decrease in sulfur content will reduce airborne emissions from ships. The new sulfur regulation could change the drivers of profitability in the refining industry for many years.

Integrate solar/thermal energy in oil and gas processing

K. Gupta, M. Ethakota and S. Payyanad, January 2018

The integration of renewable energy sources into the conventional energy sector can be a promising solution to reduce plant GHG emissions. The opportunities and applications for solar/thermal systems to replace fossil fuels fully or partially are explored here.

Aggressive optimization programs are critical for the survival of marginal refiners

D. Micklem, February 2018

Increased competition from large, efficient refineries is forcing small- to mid-sized refiners to rethink their strategies to remain competitive. Aggressive optimization programs are a very attractive strategy. Marginal refiners can use advanced simulation models and software to secure returns demanded by their stakeholders. These tools and methods are low-risk approaches to value creation. With an appropriate understanding of where and how to optimize assets, these benefits can be sustained.

Use advance predictive analytics for early detection and warning of column flooding events

J. Bird, J. B. Burns, Y. Racette and J. Beaulieu, June 2018

In this study, a methodology was implemented to predict crude distillation tower flooding events based on key process variables, including product yields, column pumparound flowrates, column temperatures and overhead reflux flowrate. A logistic regression model was selected as the predictive tool due to its ability to differentiate flooding events from non-events, as well as the ease of implementation.

Surviving turbulent times requires deep management changes

J. P. Chevriere, December 2019

As with any major tectonic shift, the turbulence accompanying the shale revolution is irregular, erratic and nonlinear. Consequently, senior management must apply new business models to address the unprecedented market challenges within the energy and HPI. E&C companies must rethink their goals and strategies to return to prosperity. At present, too many E&C companies are failing. Better management of the four key factors—capital, physical assets, knowledge and time—will greatly help E&C contractors.

Circular economy: Getting in the door of opportunity ahead of a vanishing polymer market

P. Bjacek, January 2020

Up to 43% of the global conventional polymer production expected by 2040 may disappear due to circular economy initiatives. In addition, due to the growth in wind turbines and solar panels, and in lightweight composite materials in cars and planes, advanced materials waste is just beginning. As a result, oil and gas companies stand to lose up to half of demand growth; however, they may also have the most to gain. Two drivers of this significant change center on rising waste consciousness and the transition to cleaner energy sources.

Five key innovation concepts to impact frontline engineers in 2020

A. McIntee and K. Finnan, February 2020

Frontline engineers and managers represent a large cohort of people who are, and will continue to be, impacted the most by Industry 4.0 shifts and trends. These five key innovation concepts include:

  1. Engineers and frontline managers must work backwards from business goals and constraints, defining the approach and technologies to deliver outcomes, rather than starting with new technologies and looking for places to apply them
  2. Understanding how solutions or decisions are made; black-box thinking (e.g., educated guesswork) is not the future
  3. Decisions made with expanded support from a scalable digital twin
  4. Holistic real-time actions through accessorizing
  5. Experts uses for less-expert users through new user interfaces.

Shape the refinery of the future through integration

S. N. Maiti, September 2020

The article discusses various aspects of evaluating options that enable an existing refiner to make investment decisions to optimally diversify into petrochemicals through integration.

How high can PE/PP plant capacities rise?

J. D. Divey, March 2021

Consequently, ethylene cracker plants with capacities exceeding 1 MMtpy of ethylene have become the norm. Ethylene plant capacities have soared close to 2 MMtpy, which was unthinkable two decades ago. With the inclusion of multiple polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) plants to match the olefins balance, the single-line capacities of PE/PP plants have risen to 450,000 tpy–550,000 tpy. Until about 2010, PE/PP plant capacities of 300,000 tpy–400,000 tpy were considered standard for a large plant. However, PE/PP technology licensors have kept up the pace by offering capacities in the range of 450,000 tpy–650,000 tpy, depending on the product mix. This article will explore the determining factors for different premium technologies that might limit single-line capacities, as well as potential challenges for future capacity increases.

Keeping fugitive emissions costs down with low-E valves

S. Hunsicker, August 2021

Fugitive emissions have become an increasingly critical area of interest for chemical processing and refining facilities. If left unmitigated, these uncontrolled leaks can be detrimental to a facility’s bottom line. This article explores some essential strategies for actively addressing fugitive emissions to help reduce leaks, maintain compliance and keep costs low.

History of the HPI—Up to 1930s: Whales, lamps, automobiles, plastics and war

L. Nichols, January 2022

Over the next 10 mos, Hydrocarbon Processing will provide a detailed history of the origins and evolution of the HPI. This robust analysis will chronicle the beginnings of the modern refining and petrochemical industries through the technological advancements that have created the global energy juggernaut the industry has become today. This examination of the history of the HPI will dictate how human ingenuity has provided the products that have increased the standard of living for billions of people around the world, as well as a reflection on technological advancements over the past 170 yr.

Digitally uncover profitable pathways to net-zero

S. Dubey, March 2022

As many leading energy companies commit to net-zero targets, it is important to reaffirm that good planning, execution and the capability to demonstrate additionality in abatement measures can lead to an economically viable transition to net-zero. This article builds on the following themes:

  • The need for energy companies to prioritize their emissions-related initiatives based on detailed analysis of technology options, market conditions and regulations
  • The digital capabilities and solutions needed by organizations to uncover this profitable path to net-zero
  • A recommended framework and next steps for organizations that wish to build this capability.

Overview of decarbonization pathways for the oil and gas and petrochemical industries

J. Buehler, May 2022

This two-part article will cover the seven pathways to decarbonizing the oil and gas and petrochemical industries: green and blue hydrogen, biofuels, renewable fuels and e-fuels, the circular carbon cycle, energy efficiency, new technologies, electrification and carbon capture.

Overcome inflation and supply chain issues in construction

C. Rentschler, A. Parmar and G. Shahani, June 2022

Inflation and supply chain disruptions are not new to the construction industry, but the severe combination of these factors and the rapid pace of change driven by the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented. History has shown that supply shortages and increasing inflation can be sporadic events. While experience has demonstrated that the price spikes eventually subsided (in nearly all cases), contractors that were unable to pass on the price increases for an extended period were harmed. Contractors should be equipped with the knowledge and structure to fight through the inflation situations when they occur.

Evaluate options for decarbonizing petroleum refineries

R. B. Singh, August 2022

Refiners are strategizing to align with a low-carbon future. Moving from transport fuels to petrochemical feedstocks, producing renewable fuels and sourcing low-carbon hydrogen are emerging as possible options. Governments, technology providers, refinery owners and engineering companies will all play a role in selecting and implementing the most efficient and least-disruptive pathways to a low-carbon future. One thing is certain: this transition will be gradual and require operating refineries to align product slate with demand and reduce their direct CO2 emissions. HP 

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