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Apr-2022

Increasing naphtha feedstock for the petrochemical market

The global naphtha market is valued at $152.2 billion in 2022 and could reach $212.9 billion by 2030, growing at an estimated CAGR of 3.8% over the forecast period, according to a March report from Absolute Markets Insights. Increasing refinery light and heavy naphtha production is a high priority to supply feedstock for steam cracking facilities (i.e., ethylene) and aromatics units (i.e., paraxylene).

Rene Gonzalez
Editor, PTQ

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Article Summary

The global naphtha market is valued at $152.2 billion in 2022 and could reach $212.9 billion by 2030, growing at an estimated CAGR of 3.8% over the forecast period, according to a March report from Absolute Markets Insights. Increasing refinery light and heavy naphtha production is a high priority to supply feedstock for steam cracking facilities (i.e., ethylene) and aromatics units (i.e., paraxylene).

Fast developing economies, including India, Indonesia and Thailand need significant increase in fuels and energy, catapulting the naphtha market’s upward trajectory. It’s well understood that hydrotreating naphtha produced from the FCC unit plays a key role in successfully increasing naphtha production, but the latest complexity is the refiner’s ability to coprocess renewables-based feedstocks through the FCCU.  

With global hydrotreating capacity currently at approximately 25 million bpd (1.45 billion tpy), a large portion of this capacity involves post-treatment of FCC naphtha to achieving near-zero sulfur limits for gasoline and other transportation fuels. Maximising heavy naphtha feedstock for aromatics complexes is seen with the lucrative paraxylene market, utilizing processes such as the Axens ParamaX process.

To satisfy global demand for propylene, naphtha production strategies have varied. For example, recycling strategies around FCC units have involved naphtha cracking under a wide range of operating conditions over commercially available Y-zeolite based equilibrium catalyst. However, this approach requires high operating severities to crack the naphtha, with only moderate conversion to propylene.

With IMO enforcement, an estimated 3 million bpd of HSFO are being stranded/discounted, predicating the need for integrated process schemes to upgrade HSFO and other heavy residues. This development has accelerated the selection of flow schemes for maximizing naphtha production. Another pathway to maximising naphtha is through the valorisation of vacuum resid to naphtha for petrochemical feedstock.

This pathway is playing out at some of the newest integrated refinery and petrochemical complexes. For example, prior to the pandemic, Shenghong Refining & Chemical (Lianyungang) Company selected Axens’ ebulllated-bed residue hydrocracking H-Oil technology for a capacity of 3.2 million tpy in combination with a 3.45 million tpy Axens HyK distillate hydrocracker as the key residue valorisation units for its petrochemical complex in Lianyungang, Jiangsu, China. 

The project aims at increasing naphtha production capacity by 3.6 million tpy in single train units. With other crude-oil-to-chemical (COTC) feasibility projects currently under review, atmospheric resid (AR), straight-run naphtha (SRN), VGO, and other feedstocks of variable origin are valorised to petrochemical feedstocks, including light olefins (e.g., C3=) that form the basis for the global propylene market. 

Also important to a COTC mega-complex involves routing light naphtha feedstock to steam crackers for olefins and pygas production. As previously discussed by KBR’s Taliman and Eng in Digital Refining (July 2010), a suite of technologies are available to increase the amount of naphtha feedstock, along with gas oil that can be fed to a steam cracker for increasing the ratio of high margins propylene. 

This summer’s Q3 issue of PTQ is taking a deeper dive into the production of propylene, including green propylene production pathways.


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