| Few refining industry issues have been as discussed by refiners over the last several years as the upcoming IMO regulations on marine fuel quality. In most refineries, the FCC bottoms is a reasonably high sulfur stream (1wt%+), and the combination of the high sulfur and the suspended catalyst particulates create a specific challenge for marine fuel blending under IMO 2020. At the same time, the value of middle distillates, including FCC LCO, is pushing toward a relative maximum – purely based on non-IMO market drivers. Together, these forces line up to drive the incentive to upgrade FCC bottoms to LCO to an all-time high. Prior to the new IMO regulations, upgrading FCC bottoms to higher value products was often the fastest route to higher profitability. With the onset of new marine regulations, this incentive is expected to become the most significant economic driver for even more FCCs globally.|||
Close collaboration was key to helping Hellenic Petroleum S.A.'s (HELPE) Aspropyrgos refinery enhance FCC unit profitability. Aspropyrgos refinery's FCC unit is an Exxon FlexiCrackeR® design, aiming at propylene production and minimum bottoms yield. To enhance profitability, HELPE made a series of improvements to debottleneck certain downstream units. Grace provided an enhanced catalyst system using MIDAS® catalyst and OlefinesUltra® MZ additive technologies. Clear target setting from the HELPE FCC team, as well as the reliability of the data provided aided in the reformulation, while Grace worked to ensure a smooth transition to the new catalyst system. The estimated improvement in the unit's profitability via the new technology amounts to at least 0.60 $/bbl. excluding any gasoline octane premium.
For many refineries meeting new, challenging ultra-low sulfur gasoline regulations (Tier 3) will require operating adjustments, catalyst formulation changes, and/or capital investment. Many operating strategies that reduce sulfur may reduce gasoline octane, which is often undesirable due to refinery octane requirements. Find out more about octane fundamentals and the specifics of the Tier 3 regulations through several case studies from Grace that illustrate strategies for preserving octane, maximizing alkylation rates, and reducing sulfur to maintain regulatory compliance.