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Maximising refinery efficiency with Shell and Total

07th November 2013

The refining and processing sector is regarded as a highly efficiency-conscious arm of the global oil and gas business. As energy demands increase, state-of-the-art process analysis systems and hydroprocessing solutions are some of the key technologies to achieving optimum refinery margins

Maximising refinery efficiency with Shell and Total
Jubail Export Refinery, Saudi Arabia, 2012

As economic growth and, consequently, energy needs increase, so does the pressure to boost refining margins to feed an ever expanding global oil and gas market. As a result, existing technology must undergo a constant and thorough process of review. If current tools are found to be inadequate to meet both high production and high quality goals, then these technologies must be replaced with more reliable models; and, in some cases, new and more efficient systems must take their place.


In effect, around the globe a new and stronger focus is being placed on upgrading refineries and their equipment, as it is paramount for the industry that steady and reliable output flows are guaranteed to supply ever-growing markets with much needed fuels. Rising gasoline and diesel consumption; increasingly stringent regulations for fuel, the processing of more low-quality, high-sulphur crudes; and tightening refinery site emissions standards are all factors that translate into higher demands for more efficiency-driven solutions.



Total and Saudi Aramco choose enhanced process analysis systems


Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical (SATORP) company, a joint venture between oil majors Total and Saudi Aramco, is building the highly anticipated USD 9.6bn Jubail Export Refinery in Saudi Arabia, which will go online by the end of 2013 and process 400,000 barrels per day of heavy crude oil to produce diesel and jet fuel.


German-based safety technology provider Bartec won the bid to provide SATORP with all the process analysis systems needed for determining key quality parameters for diesel and gasoline at Jubail’s CDUs and various process plants such as product blenders, tank farm etc. The contract includes 34 process analysis systems with the associated sample preparations and chillers. Out of the 34 process analysis systems supplied, more than half were distillation process analysers (DPA-4).


The distillation characteristics of a liquid petrochemical product must be analysed in order to gather information about its behaviour during use and storage. Bartec’s DPA is designed for monitoring and controlling the production process and the composition of blends.


The DPA-4 performs automatic analysis of the distillation characteristics of liquid petrochemical products at atmospheric pressure such as naphtha, aviation fuels, fuel oil, diesel and hydrocarbons with a maximum boiling point temperature below thermal cracking. Up to three product streams, with one calibration stream each, can be connected to the online analyser. It is intended to monitor the quality of production in the process and also the compliance with mandatory specifications for petrochemical products.


“Our analyser is the only one out there that is 100 per cent compliant with the applicable norm, ASTM D86, which is the master norm for distillation, so we can guarantee reliable boiling curves even if the sample is a little off-spec,” says Gerd Büttner, director of process analyser technology at Bartec.


“Total and Saudi Aramco were very keen to get something that was in compliance with the norm,” he adds. “Our service engineers are now in Saudi Arabia working to get everything online and running at optimum quality.”


According to Bartec’s director for process analyser technology, the DPA-4 can handle samples with higher viscosity and/or high pour points, which will be crucial at SATORP’s 400,000 bpd heavy crude oil refinery. The system is also able to perform optimum diagnosis and self-monitoring to achieve product specific parameter sets and optional calculated parameters.


Shell and KBR lead way with cutting edge hydroprocessing solutions


In any refinery, hydroprocessing – that is, hydrotreating and hydrocracking – is a crucial process to convert a variety of fossil feeds into fuels. Hydrotreating is primarily used to remove heteroatoms and metals, while hydrocracking significantly reduces the molecular weight and, in some cases, the aromatic content of the feed.


For hydroprocessing, Shell in 2011 chose KBR as its main partner in the formation of a new technology alliance, whereby KBR, along with the Anglo-Dutch company, would market, sell and provide technology and design packages on hydroprocessing solutions for refiners worldwide.


In KBR and Shell Global Solutions’ hydrotreating process, oil fractions are reacted with hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst to produce clean products. Temperatures can range between 350-390°C, and pressures between 60 and 90 barg for the production of ultra-low-sulphur diesel (<10 ppm). According to KBR, the core of the hydrotreating process is the reactor section, which features a high-pressure reactor vessel and proprietary catalyst and reactor internals technology.


Shell’s partnership with KBR was further expanded last year to include deep-flash, high-vacuum unit distillation and thermal conversion technologies.


“Our early successes demonstrate that refiners value the synergies between KBR’s technology and engineering experience and Shell’s operating and catalyst experience,” says Süleyman Özmen, vice president, Refining and Chemical Licensing, Shell Global Solutions International BV. ”The expansion of our alliance illustrates our long-term commitment to providing high quality, innovative technology to the refining industry.”



Refinery operators, service providers and technology developers are working hard to maximise production, efficiency and the quality of petrochemical products at refineries, as the concept of upgrading downstream facilities as well as their equipment to handle heavier, low-quality and high-sulphur crudes becomes an issue which can no longer be avoided. Shell, Total and Saudi Aramco have proven that identifying optimum technical solutions, refining expertise and technology know-how to enhance their facilities are paramount to guaranteeing efficient downstream methods, good quality fuels and, as a result, increasing refining margins.