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REFINERY CONFIGURATIONS IN INDIA-THE ROAD AHEAD

Vartika Shukla and MK Joshi

INTRODUCTION

Configurations of refineries in India have changed dramatically India over the last three
decades. Set up initially as low cost projects, the existing refineries have gradually
evolved into large, complex units, the growth of which was driven initially by the
following:
• Increased demand and discovery of indigenous crude oil
• Upgrading of heavier fractions to middle distillates
conservation we are now looking at refineries of large capacity and high complexity with
increasing process integration to achieve energy optimization in addition to generating
products that meet stringent international specifications. The driving forces for the
change in refinery configurations have been:
• Crudes being processed in the refineries
• Changing product demand
• Increasing competition and the need to be profitable
• Environmental stipulations and improvement in product quality

These issues are discussed in the following sections.


REFINERY CONFIGURATION IN 60’S AND EARLY 70’S
Refineries set up during this time were based on processing of either indigenous crudes
from the northeast region or imported curdes. These refineries were of low capacity.
The largest being of about 3MTPA and were characterized by simple configurations
which consisted of:
a) Atmospheric distillation
b) Naphtha splitting and catalytic reforming
c) Visbreaking
d) Treating units for LPG Kerosene etc
For refineries which were designed to process crudes from the north-east, Visbreaking
unit was replaced by Delayed Coking Unit and Kerosene treating the was essentially an
extraction process for removal of aromatics so that smoke point specifications could be
met. Conversion levels were not very high and since environmental stipulations were not
at all stringent, high sulfur fuel oil could be easily consumed for meeting the internal
requirements of the refineries. The typical costs for refinery projects at this stage ranged
between Rs. 30-40 Cr per million ton of capacity. The higher limit at this range
corresponds to lube oil refineries, which were set up during this period. Figure 1&2
shows the simplified configurations of petroleum refineries set up during this period.

Fuel gas

Naphtha
Stabilizer

Naphtha NHDS/SRR Gasoline


Splitter
Naphtha

Crude Oil Atm KTU ATF


Distillation
Unit Kerosene

Aromex
Diesel

Delayed Coking
Unit Fuel oil

Coke

Figure I
Configuration for north east crude based refinery
Fuel gas

LPG
Naphtha
Stabilizer Treating Unit

Naphtha

Naphtha
Splitter
Atm
Crude Oil Oil Merox HDS
Dist
SRR Motor Spirit
Unit

ATF
Kerosene

Vac Diesel
Dist
Merox
Unit FCC Unit

Fuel oil
Wax
Lube Block
Extr’n/Dewaxing/HFU LOBS
Extract
BBU
Bitumen
 Routing of all streams to different pools is not shown.
 CPCL ( MRL –Ref I )did not have FCC initially, VGO HDS was included
BPCL did not have Lube Block

Figure 2
Configuration of Refineries set up to process Imported Crude Oil

The oil price shock of the 1970’s necessitated re-examining of processing schemes and it
was realized that there was a need for secondary processing facilities to upgrade heavy
material to value added distillates. Accordingly, this period saw a significant emphasis
on the installation of FCC Units in existing refineries as well as grass root refinery
products. The FCC Unit had been examined vis a vis other secondary processing options
and was adopted as it found to be less expensive and also had a more proven track record.
The technology also gave advantages of producing more LPG as well as gasoline. Six
new FCC Units were set up during this period and unlike units installed in USA and
Europe, these units were first of their type in the sense that they were designed to operate
at low severity and to selectively produce more middle distillate. During this phase also
there was not significant upgrading of product quality and it was therefore possible to
absorb the products from FCC Units in the refinery product streams. Since the new
refinery projects involved the addition of secondary processing and treating facilities,
investments costs were higher and typically ranged around Rs. 50 Cr per million-ton
capacity. Figure 3 shows a simplified configuration of refineries with FCC Units.

LPG to Treating
unit/Product pool

Atm
Dist FCC Gasoline to
Unit treating units/
Product pool

HCU FCC Cycle Oil to


Vac HDT/diesel pool
Dist
Unit

Existing

DCU
New

SDA

Figure 3
Integration of FCC with other units in an existing refinery

CONFIGURATION DURING LATE 1980 AND EARLY 1990


During this period major increase in the demand of middle distillates were foreseen and
technology options were accordingly selected. It was found that the hydro cracking
option offered a technically acceptable route to maximize the production of middle
distillates of very high quality and to offer the flexibility of upgrading existing refinery
streams to the desired product quality by blending. Accordingly, during this period a
number of projects came up wherein hydro cracking was the primary secondary
processing facility in grass root units and a number of existing refineries. Hydro cracking
unit was installed in parallel or upstream of FCC units with the objective of improving
product slate and providing additional operating flexibility. Hydro cracking units were
installed in Gujarat Refinery, Mathura Refinery, Panipat Refinery, Mangalore and NRL.
Studies were also undertaken for other refineries where it was found that hydro cracking
could be profitably integrated with the existing refinery configurations with capacity
expansion as required. Such products are presently in the process of execution at BPCL
and CPCL Refineries. The incorporation of hydro cracking to the processing schemes
also implied the inclusion of hydrogen production, sulphur recovery and other related
units and this together with other factors like escalation changes in foreign exchange rates
etc led to a significant increase in investment on grass root refinery projects and this went
up to 500 crore million per ton. Figure 4 shows a block flow diagram for a refinery with
Hydro cracking and FCC combination.
ATU Fuel gas

Sulphur
Stabilizer ARU SRU
LPG
Treating
Naphtha
Splitter
Isom
To LPG Pool Motor Spirit
HDS/CCR/SPL
Atm ATF
Dist Treating
Unit Kerosene

HDS Diesel

H2 Unit
MEROX HTU
HCU
Vac Dist
Unit DHDT
FCC

SDU IDW/HFU

SEU/SDW/HFU LOBS
Extract/CBFS

VBU Fuel Oil


Naphtha to HTU/CCR/ Naphtha Pool
DCU

HCGO to HCU
Coke

Asphalt

Figure 4
Refinery Configuration with Hydrocracker and FCC combination
Since the last 5 years product specifications have been attracting close attention of
environmentalists as well as equipment manufacturers. Product specifications are being
closely reviewed to ensure compliance with environmental stipulations as well as
optimum performance of the automotive industry. Products like diesel and gasoline are
being specifically targeted for quality improvement. Lubricating oils are also being
looked at with a view to meeting API Grade II/Grade III specifications. The main
implications of the changes in the product quality are:
a) Increasing use of hydro conversion to upgrade heavy stocks into value added
product as well as improve the quality of distillates.
b) Installation of Gas sweetening, Sulphur Recovery (99% min) to meet
environmental stipulations.

These requirements have lead to significant investments but without a corresponding


premium on the product prices. Accordingly, refineries have to look at ways and means
to improve their product pattern to produce more value added products, improve the
energy efficiency so that total operating costs can be minimized. Addition of conversion
facilities to upgrade heavy residues, which were being sold as fuel oil has also assumed
importance. This has necessitated a close examination of refinery configurations and
almost all the refineries are taking up studies to critically look at facilities, which would
be required to meet the future product specifications while ensuring that operations
remain profitable. It is therefore expected that a combination of the following process
units will need to be added in the refineries.
a) Isomerization
b) CCR Reforming
c) Hydro desulphurization
d) Delayed coking
e) Gasification for generation of power as well meeting the hydrogen and steam
requirement of the refinery

The studies are also be looking at the option of increasing refinery capacity and possible
integration with a petrochemical complex so that more value can be added to the refining
operations. It is, therefore, quite likely that refinery processing schemes and the addition
of new facilities in existing refineries would be governed by economies of scale and the
integration of petrochemicals as well as power generation to maximize profitability. The
Reliance refinery offers an excellent example of this approach and other refineries are
also looking at similar options although not on such a large scale. BRPL was the one of
the first instance of an integrated refinery and petrochemical complex. The IOCL
refinery at Gujarat was interlinked with IPCL complex. Today generation of power or
alternatively high value products like propylene, ethylene, LAB feedstock or integration
with aromatic complex so that more value can be added to the refining operations has
assumed major significance. The complexity of the refinery is therefore expected to
increase.
The East India Refinery Project of IOCL and the Guru Gobind Singh Refinery projects of
HPCL are instances of high conversion refineries with Integrated Gasification and
Generation Cycle. The Panipat Refinery of IOCL is also pursuing a project for
integrating a PX/PTA complex with the refinery. The Bina Refinery of M/s BPCL and
the Haldia Refinery of IOCL are also addressing the requirement of improved Lube
quality to meet API Grade II specs by adopting Hydro processing route for LOBS
Production. Figure 5 shows the block flow diagram for possible linkages between a
refinery and a petrochemicals complex
Benzene LDPE,HDPE,LLDPE
Cyclohexane LLDPE
Cyclohexane EO, EG
Toluene
Pyrolysis Isopropanol
PX, OX, Mixed Gasoline Ethanol
Xylenes Aromatics BT Extr’n
Polypropylene

Reformate PO, PG
H2 Olefins
Refinery Plant

Alkylate Butane, C5’s


White Oil,
Lubricants, Fuels
Sulphur, Coke
Alkylation

C4/C5 Isom Iso butylene


Butylenes

Source: Lyondell

Figure 5
Possible Refinery/Petrochemical linkages

CONCLUSION
There has been a transformation in the face of the Indian Refining Industry in the recent
past. The increasing emphasis on product quality, profitability and efficiency has thrown
up a number of challenges that the refineries have to meet forward and backward
integration is accordingly being given due consideration. Technology options are
available and judicious selection of these coupled with planning, scheduling and
optimization of refinery operations will continue to draw the industry ahead.