Reports ... in depth ...
Strict Environmental Regulations Compel Petroleum Refiners
to Opt for Sophisticated Catalytic Processes
ALTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 12, 2004--Oil refiners across
the world are struggling -- or soon will be -- to meet tighter
product quality specifications mandated by stern environmental
legislations. This is likely to affect the production of gasoline
and diesel transportation fuels, two of the most profitable
petroleum products, in the short term.
"The impact of stringent environmental directives is already
evident from the escalating operating costs of oil refineries,"
says Technical Insights Analyst Peter Savage. "These changes
in rules were in fact the initial impetus for soaring gasoline
prices in the U.S. during spring 2004."
Categorical laws mandating low sulfur levels are already coming
into force in the U.S. and Europe. This is compelling refineries
and technology suppliers and licensors to invest heavily in
revamping their refining techniques, which remove sulfur and
other unwanted components -- including excess aromatics and
surplus volatiles -- present in gasoline.
Many improvements in refining operations designed to deal with
high sulfur content involve sophisticated new approaches to
catalysis. Catalysts throughout the refinery are generally easily
poisoned by sulfur and concerted efforts are on to devise pre-treatment
methods to prevent sulfur from affecting the highly sensitive
catalysts during upgrading processes.
"Raising the overall efficiency of a catalytic process
can significantly boost revenue margins," says Savage.
"Hence, refiners will be more than willing to invest in
such processes if they are assured of even marginal improvements."
Established catalytic processes such as hydrotreating and desulfurization
along with conversion routes such as alkylation and isomerization
are likely to benefit directly from these developments. Already,
there is a surge in investment in these areas.
Isomerization and alkylation are likely to receive greater impetus
because of the anticipated ban on the gasoline additive methyl
tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE). Ironically, MTBE itself was introduced
as a solution for octane shortage problems caused by an earlier
legislation implemented to deal with urban smog.
"Despite the omnibus 'Energy Bill' being stalled in the
U.S., a 'rolling ban' on the use of MTBE in gasoline has begun,
compelling refiners to seek alternative oxygenates and high-octane
blending components," says Savage.
Growing concerns about large-scale use of sulfuric and hydrofluoric
acid as a catalyst in alkylation units are further encouraging
the development and commercialization of new catalytic processes
that use superacids or solid-state alkylation.
Declining availability of 'sweet' crudes is spurring research
efforts on the use of heavier crude oil. However, the processes
to crack heavy crude also need to deal with issues such as sulfur
and other contaminants that are produced abundantly in the lighter
fractions after cracking.
Greater investment in desulfurization technology will be required
as treatment of heavy crude is likely to create a telling impact
on the refinery's hydrogen balance.
"Heavy crudes are 'hydrogen poor,' necessitating greater
care in conserving and recovering hydrogen in offgases,"
explains Savage. "This can be done by improving processes
such as pressure swing adsorption and membrane separation which,
though effective, need to be tailored and scaled up considerably
for more demanding refinery use.
Refineries are eager to adapt to changing circumstances though
rarely inclined to try new technologies that are radically different
in character. However, ultrasonic technology and novel separation
methods show great promise.
"A deeper understanding of how catalysts work -- both chemically
and physically -- is providing greater scope for technological
improvements," says Savage. "Nanotechnology and combinatorial
chemistry are among the main techniques that are likely to drive
research at the frontiers of efficiency and selectivity."
Emerging Petroleum Refining Technologies, a part of the Oil
and Gas Vertical Subscription, examines the evolution of new
petroleum refining technologies and their impact on the oil
industry. The study analyzes the key regulatory factors influencing
technology evolution and adoption, discussed from the standpoint
of gasoline, diesel, petrochemicals, and intra-refinery issues.
Various catalytic processes (such as isomerization, alkylation,
desulfurization, and hydrotreating) and the role of catalytic
cracking and reforming are discussed in detail. Executive summaries
and interviews are available to the press.
If you are interested in an analysis overview which provides
manufacturers, end-users and other industry participants an
overview, summary, challenges and latest coverage of Emerging
Petroleum Refining Technologies, then send an email to Julia
Paulson - North American Corporate Communications at email@example.com
with the following information: Full name, Company Name, Title,
Contact Tel Number, Contact Fax Number, Email. Upon receipt
of the above information, an overview will be emailed to you.
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Vertical Industry Report: Emerging Petroleum Refining Technologies
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story has been adapted from a news release -
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