The demand for residue upgrading through the application of ebullated-bed hydrocracking is growing around the world, as it is a well-established, commercially proven technology offering very high conversion levels and can help, therefore, to minimise the number of bottoms sent to the bunker fuel oil pool.
Process Technology for Improved Refinery Crude Diversification Economics
The attractiveness of ebullated-bed hydrocracking as a technology solution for refiners has been enhanced by the recent trend for greater vacuum residue (VR) feed processing flexibility, which leads to improved refinery crude diversification economics. Ebullated-bed hydrocracking is a long-established technology, with improved designs providing conversion of > 85% (540°C+) of very refractive VR feeds with high contaminant metals and Conradson carbon residue (CCR) contents. Since ebullated-bed hydrocracking was commercialised in the 1960s, 16 units have been built. In the last four years, the technology’s popularity has led to another 7 units which are now under construction & startup.
A Customised Approach to Catalyst Development
Ebullated-bed hydrocrackers are highly customised according to a refiner’s specific objectives and there has been a great deal of innovation in the latest grassroots designs. Earlier-generation designs were more closely integrated with downstream fluidised catalytic cracking units and the key products required further upgrading to meet the required specifications. In contrast, the design of newer-generation units features an integrated hydrocracker–high-pressure hydrotreater in the same high-pressure loop. This enables direct production of high-value transportation fuels such as ultra-low-sulphur diesel from VR.
Shell currently operates both types of ebullated-bed unit licensed technologies: Axens’ H-OilRC and Chevron Lummus Global’s LC-FINING technology. Additionally, Shell Catalysts & Technologies has more than 40 years experience in ebullated-bed catalysts and currently supplies customised catalysts to both H-OilRC and LC-FINING units.
Using Owner-Operator Expertise to Meet Clean Fuel Demand
The demand for clean fuels continues to grow and bottom-of-the-barrel upgrading is a critical process to fulfil that growing demand. Shell Catalysts & Technologies prioritises partnering with refineries to provide a deep diagnosis and holistic auditing of processes and results. This helps refiners make the most effective decision when it comes to the residue upgrading catalyst and technology mix.
Monetise refinery residues, asphaltenes, and heavy oils by converting them into syngas with our Residue and Natural Gas Gasification process.
Shell hydrocracking technology provides several commercial benefits for refineries including improvements in product yield, unit stability, and enhanced turnaround times.