Improving Refinery Fuel Blending Operations

by | Dec 4, 2017 | Downstream Hydrocarbons, Industry | 0 comments

For a refinery, the efficiency and reliability of the fuel blending operations largely determines its overall financial performance. These fuels, including gasoline, diesel, fuel oils, jet fuel, and kerosene require the right blend of fuel components and additives such as anti-oxidants, anti-knock agents, octane enhancers and more to meet their specifications for sale. Exceeding the specifications, also known as product giveaway, is a lost opportunity for greater revenues—and not meeting the specifications creates additional rework costs.

Emerson's Arnie Josefson

I caught up with Emerson’s Arnold Josefson about these challenges and how optimizing the design of the fuel blending process can reduce product giveaway and rework costs.

Arnie described an example where a European refiner needed to modernize a newly acquired refinery. This plant required instrumentation and automation modernization for more flexible operations to meet customer demands. Also, the refinery needed to cost-effectively comply with the European Union fuel standards and reduce excessive giveaway. In the United States, refiners are similarly challenged with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel regulations and standards.

Emerson’s refining consulting team performed a conceptual study to determine the steps needed to modernize the fuel blending operations. The refinery had several operational challenges including piping and pump capacity constraints, long blend cycles, poor storage tank utilization, missed production plan targets, excessive octane giveaway, and manually-operated inventory & tank farm processes.

Additionally, this refinery performed batch-based fuel blending instead of the more efficient in-line blending, where the components are added simultaneously and the mixing occurs inline in the header to the blended fuel storage tank.

The project objectives were to use as much of the existing plant infrastructure as possible, minimize the impact to existing operations, reduce operating costs, meet the EU fuel standards, and benchmark and prove the performance guarantee required for the project. The project team to design and execute this project consisted of the plant staff, Emerson consultants and a local contractor.

The project scope included the use of existing blending process equipment, replacement of some component pumps per the hydraulics analysis, and the installation of an in-line blend system and piping sized to meet the increased capacity requirements, as well as instrumentation and automation equipment. A local contractor installed the component pumps and piping per the design requirements established by the Emerson team and refinery staff.

The project team executed this modernization project mostly as a hot cutover with minimal downtime. Switching from a batch-based to an in-line blending approach provided a 75% reduction in cycle time—up to 30 hours per blend. This capacity increase met the goals for the project.

Upon completion of the project, the team quantified projected annual savings of $5.2M USD due to increased blender throughput, reduced staff requirements, reduced re-blends and product giveaways, and optimized blend component usage. Other non-quantifiable improvements included reduced dependency on upstream process changes, improved planning and scheduling, better reporting, and early identification of issues which could lead to lost production.

Learn more about improving fuel blending flexibility, profitability and how your refinery can reduce giveaway, cut costs and meet ever-increasing fuel standards.

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

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