A flexible and innovative solution to temporarily mitigate FCC catalyst losses (ERTC)

In the fluid catalytic cracker (FCC), fluidisation of the catalyst is essential to ensure continuous operation of the unit.

Kitty Cha, Carl Keeley, Benjamin O’Berry, Stefano Riva, Yvonne Gerritse

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Article Summary

Maintaining good fluidisation is important because fluidisation behaviour determines how a catalyst circulates in the FCC unit. A unit that circulates catalyst poorly is difficult to operate and may run at a lower catalyst-to-oil than desired, thus having an adverse effect on refined product yields and selectivities. Furthermore, catalyst circulation issues can lead to unit catalyst losses and, if escalated, an unplanned shutdown. An unplanned FCC shutdown is a very expensive and difficult situation to manage, and a disruption in FCC processing capacity can lead to local fuel shortages.

This was experienced by a FCC unit in Europe processing 90000 b/d of feed to generate product transportation fuels and petrochemical feedstock. The refinery began suffering FCC unit catalyst losses due to catalyst circulation problems. To avoid an unplanned shutdown, BASF was asked, as the incumbent FCC catalyst supplier, for a solution. To address the catalyst circulation issues, BASF proposed using its Portable FCC Catalyst Addition System (loader) to inject EZ Flow™, an additive for improving catalyst circulation.

The EZ Flow additive, unique to BASF, is designed to increase the fluidisation index of all FCC catalyst technologies. The additive enables increased operational flexibility through increased catalyst circulation rate, improved pressure build-up in the standpipe, and a more uniform density. EZ Flow is provided separate from the FCC catalyst and can be charged to the unit prior to start-up or can be introduced during operation. It was determined that the refinery required an urgent, continuous addition of EZ Flow until the catalyst circulation improved and the catalyst losses were substantially reduced. The delivery solution identified was the portable loader  system.

Designed for FCC catalyst and/or additives trials, the portable nature of the loader allows for an easy setup at the refinery site, without significant space requirement or special engineering work. The Portable FCC Catalyst Addition System allows refiners to capture economic advantages from catalyst or additive trials while minimising potential risks of changing catalyst. It can also be employed to ensure FCC operation during inspection, repair or replacement of fixed FCC addition systems. All in all, this provides maximum operational flexibility while using new catalyst technologies.

Multiple personnel at the refinery and BASF worked closely to implement the delivery of EZ Flow through the portable loader solution. Additional consultation was provided by the loader original equipment manufacturer to address initial technical difficulties. Shortly after introducing EZ Flow, the unit circulation improved. Catalyst losses were reduced to normal levels. The loader/additive solution was put into continuous service for over six months, and the FCC unit was able to continue continuous operation until its scheduled turnaround.

The Portable FCC Catalyst Addition System reduces the hurdle to allowing sites to trial BASF additives by overcoming current site loader restrictions. This solution was used to deliver EZ Flow, an effective fluidisation aid, to address the refiner’s catalyst losses issue and allow the unit to maintain operations.

Did you know the fastest growing FCC catalyst market globally is for olefins production?

This short article originally appeared in the 2018 ERTC Newspaper, produced by PTQ / DigitalRefining.

For more information contact: refining-catalysts@basf.com

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