Refining India 2022 Newspaper

refining india 2022

Catalyst technologies for enhancing profitability in the energy transition

Alex C Pulikottil, Madhusudan Sau and SSV Ramakumar IndianOil Corporation Limited

of different i-MAX Series ZSM-5 additives for propylene. They can be customised to the needs of the refiner, and have enabled several Indian refiners to tweak their prod- uct slate to maximise profitability. Residue Upgrading Additive (RUA) is designed with large pore matrix technol- ogy to crack heavier feedstock and produce more valuable distillates. This customised additive improves bottom upgrading and coke selectivity in the FCC unit. Eco-MAX CO Combustion Promoter increases com- bustion efficiency in FCC regenerators, converting more than 95% of CO at appro- priate operating conditions. It is designed for longer retention in the unit with high active-metal dispersion for maximum effi- ciency, even in high severity FCC units. Hydrotreating catalysts for capturing margin advantages Hydrotreating processes will play a pivotal role in the changing landscape of refin- ery operations, be it the feed treatment to produce cleaner feedstocks that will posi- tively impact subsequent process units or to produce cleaner products like gasoline and diesel. With a focus on hydrotreating cataly- sis, over the years IndianOil has developed and commercially deployed its high-perfor- mance diesel and VGO hydrotreating cata- lyst platform (IndiCAT Series), as depicted in Figure 3 . The catalyst platform features functionalities tailored for the removal of various hetero-atoms, sulphur, nitrogen, and oxygen, as well as for the deep hydro- genation of aromatic and olefinic com- pounds in the feedstocks for meeting fuel specifications like sulphur and nitrogen content, density, distillation end point, and cetane number. The diesel hydrotreating catalyst system can also be designed with high hydrogenation functionality to boost volume swell of the product. The catalyst technology tailors the nature of active sites (NiMoS phase) through unique metal chem- istry employed with support characteris- tics. IndiCAT Prime catalyst, an advanced version recently launched for hydrotreating heavier gasoil stream, has shown excellent performance during commercial runs for meeting BS-VI/Euro-VI specifications. Conclusions IndianOil’s R&D catalyst portfolio for FCC application delivers convenient solutions for flexible unit operation, ensuring improved profit margins. The hydrotreating catalyst platforms offer customised catalyst solu- tions to handle varying feedstocks, adapt- able for better productivity and reliability with cost competitiveness. Advanced FCC and hydrotreating catalyst technologies will help refiners leverage existing FCC and hydrotreating units to meet the energy efficiencies and changing product slates demanded in the era of energy transition. Contact:

Fuels derived from fossil sources have been the dominant global energy vehicle for sev- eral decades despite making inroads into alternative fuels. However, due to growing environmental concerns and stricter poli- cies, increase in demand for fossil fuels is expected to taper down in the coming years and decline beyond 2040. In contrast, a continual increase in demand for petro- chemicals is anticipated in the foreseeable future. With this emerging scenario, refiners need to focus on valorisation of their exist- ing assets while expanding product slates towards producing chemicals to sustain profitability. Operating an existing refinery unit with higher energy efficiency and pro- ductivity will be imperative to increase sus- tainability and profitability in operation. Fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) and hydro- processing (hydrocracking and hydro- treating) technologies are the mainstay of modern refineries worldwide to produce value-added light olefins, clean fuels meet- ing regulatory norms, and many other petro- leum products for fulfilling ever-increasing societal demands. Technological interven- tions in the past enabled continued adop- tion of these technologies for profitable operation of refinery units. FCC and hydro- processing technologies must be aligned to the needs of an emerging market driven by the energy transition. IndianOil has dedicated two decades of research to the development and deploy- ment of customised refining catalyst tech- nologies, resulting in a wide spectrum of advanced catalyst solutions to suit the changing needs of refineries. These proprie- tary FCC catalysts and additives and hydro- treating catalysts allow refiners to operate their respective units optimally and integrate with petrochemical productions pending the imminent slowdown in demand growth of fuels. This article describes the perfor- mance of IndianOil’s catalyst platforms for FCC and hydrotreating applications. Maximising Petrochemicals Currently, petrochemicals like light olefins (ethylene, propylene, isobutene) are mainly produced through steam cracking and FCC processes. The FCC process features attractive options for tuning product selec- tivity to offer better flexibility for producing different olefinic products with lower energy intensity. IndianOil’s INDMAX process has been designed to maximise the production of olefins (ethylene and other lighter ole- fins) by converting feedstocks with a higher residue fraction. This technology has been adopted by several Indian refineries for refining-petrochemical integration, and new installations are in the pipeline. Traditionally, the FCC catalyst system comprises a primary cracking component based on Y-type zeolite and a secondary shape-selective cracking component made of medium pore pentasil zeolite like ZSM-5 zeolite. ZSM-5 additives greatly increase

Gasoline, wt% LPG, wt% Propylene, wt% Conversion, wt%

CLO, wt% LCO, wt% Heavy naphtha, wt%

Coke, wt%







Dierential yields, wt%

Figure 1 Differential performance benefits of IMX Series catalysts over commercial reference

i-MAX Premium i-MAX Supreme i-MAX Ultra










Conversion, wt%

Figure 2 Relative propylene selectivity of i-MAX Series additives


IndiCAT Value

IndiCAT Optima

IndiCAT Prime

Figure 3 Evolution of IndiCAT Series catalyst platform

propylene yield by selectively cracking olefins in gasoline range hydrocarbons. However, excessive quantities of conven- tional ZSM-5 additives in catalyst inventory result in a reduction of overall cracking of feed molecules, leading to depletion of ole- fins in gasoline and lowering propylene yield. INDMAX catalysts have been specially cus- tomised with ultra-high intrinsic activity for substantially converting gasoline range ole- fins to maximise propylene and ethylene, simultaneously maintaining the concentra- tion of gasoline olefins by selectively crack- ing the heavier feed molecules. The product yield benefits of several IOCL cat cracking catalyst and additives (IMX Series) over commercial reference cat- alysts are shown in Figure 1 . IMX Series catalyst exhibits substantial improvements

in yield of light olefins, coke selectivity, and bottoms upgrading with high resistance against thermal and hydrothermal deactiva- tion. The IMX platform can be customised to the process objectives and feed properties required by a refinery unit. FCC additives for harnessing operational flexibility of FCC units i-MAX Series ZSM-5 additives for produc- ing LPG and propylene are available in i-MAX Premium, i-MAX Supreme, and i-MAX Ultra, customisable to meet the needs of refin- ers. These additives are based on a stabi- lised and tailored ZSM-5 zeolite, employing a patented methodology embedded in the additive microsphere with a unique matrix technology to retain the crystalline structure of the zeolite. Figure 2 shows the efficacy


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