Better Handling Opportunity Crudes in Refineries

We’ve discussed in earlier posts how opportunity crudes, while reducing feedstock costs, increase the complexity of operating a refinery.

Emerson's Tim Olsen

At a monthly meeting of the South Texas section of the AIChE, Emerson’s Tim Olsen presented The New World of Opportunity Crudes.

In the presentation, he discussed the changes in the industry and shale-based production that led to opportunity crude oils, highlighted areas for refinery capital investments, discussed challenges for downstream operations, and described technology and behavior changes to process these opportunity crudes.

Tim described sources of opportunity crudes including tight oil, heavy sour crude, extra heavy crude or bitumen from the oil sand regions and high-acid crudes. For tight oil, there are higher concentrations of light components, large amounts of naphtha, high levels of calcium and iron that can lead to catalyst poisoning, very paraffinic (lower gasoline octane), and immiscibility concerns that can lead to fouling and corrosion issues when blending.

For heavy sour crudes, concerns include the yield slate, increased delta coke causes lower conversion and higher regeneration temperature in fluid catalytic cracker (FCC), contaminants may harm catalysts, corrosion problems in the crude unit, and fouling problems. Refiners are concerned with extra-heavy/bitumen crudes due to low cetane index for diesel, large amount of residual material, large amount of contaminants that may harm catalysts, and fouling problems.

For high-acid crudes, challenges occur from increased corrosion, poor salt removal and separation of oil and water, fouling reduces plant capacity, degradation of catalyst by calcium, low cetane index for diesel, and the impact this many have on product specifications.

Over the past several years, desulfurization and cracking projects were the major source of capital investments. Tim noted that the shift is occurring toward crude distillation units (CDU) in order to process the newer light crude and condensate supplies. These investments increase the capacity of refineries to handle opportunity crudes to improve their margins.

Another trend for existing refineries is investments in debottlenecking in order to reduce overall energy usages versus building new units. Debottlenecking also enables refineries to more quickly adapt to market changes in crude oil supplies.

Watch the YouTube recording of Tim’s presentation for more on ways technology can help refineries maximize the user of discounted opportunity crudes without creating issues with asset integrity or production availability. Examples he highlights include crude blending with mass flow-based measurements, real-time corrosion monitoring, and predictive analytics to provide alerts before abnormal situations or imminent failures occur.

You can also connect and interact with other refining experts in the Refining group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

Posted Monday, June 20th, 2016 under Refining.