Being Efficient 1/3: Creating Synergies 05.06.2015

How to meet the world’s growing demand for energy? How to produce fuels and chemical products in the most efficient way? These new challenges have set the path to important changes on how any energy company operates.

The development of increasing synergies between the refining, petrochemical and gas industries is one of them. The opportunity of refining-petrochemical integration is particularly interesting in the case of propylene production. Jean Sentenac, CEO of Axens, explains what technological solutions have been developed in this context.

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More than ever, the world needs cleaner fuels and cleaner products from the chemical industry to help populations access a better quality of life. We more and more frequently see operators providing these components together: operators aim to obtain value from every drop of oil.

I want to take the example of the Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) and its evolution throughout the years: originally invented by Eugene Houdry in 1928 to produce gasoline, this process has continuously evolved to be able to produce not only gasoline but also more olefins, in particular propylene, one of the chemicals in highest demand, and to do this from heavier, therefore cheaper feedstocks, such as atmospheric residue.

Our company, together with Technip, is commercializing the R2R technology and is the leader in this field. We’ve gone further recently by putting a new technology on the market, High Severity-FCC or HS-FCC™, yielding over 20% wt. propylene from residue, which was pioneered in Saudi Arabia and Japan by Saudi Aramco, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and JX. This process operates at high temperature, high catalyst to oil ratio, but with very short contact time to avoid coking and over-cracking, thanks to the use of a down-flow reactor, which is the first of its kind in fluid catalytic cracking history: this example shows that more than 80 years after the invention of FCC, there are still techniques and innovations to be invented; and we’re not finished yet probably if you consider the versatility and importance of such units in the refining and petrochemical industry.

Another example I can give you is in the field of the aromatic molecule production, this includes Benzene, Toluene and Paraxylene. Axens has a strong expertise on this market, and we have developed advanced process schemes allowing us to maximize the production of aromatics through the conversion of the bottom of the barrel.

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