Refiners capturing value through styrene production
The Global Styrene Market is estimated to be worth US$ 34.23 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to increase with a CAGR of 5.1% during 2022-2027, according to the latest research from Market Data Forecast. Moreover, analysis from Research & Markets recently concluded “the global styrene market outlook is positive with particular growth potential for polymer modification.”
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Rapid urbanization predicates increasing demand for styrene-to-polystyrene. There is mounting pressure to implement sustainable eco-friendly manufacturing practices and improve the quality of styrene products, as refiners increase styrene production. For example, The Shell Scotford Chemicals Plant uses byproducts from the adjacent Shell Scotford Refinery to help manufacture styrene monomer.
The Shell Scotford Complex consists of a bitumen upgrader, oil refinery, chemicals plant and a carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility. It is one of North America’s most efficient, modern and integrated hydrocarbon processing sites, converting oil sands bitumen into finished, marketable products that include styrene. For many refiners, styrene is but one of the emerging petrochemical products.
Mega refinery complexes in India are a prime example of refinery diversification into petrochemicals.
Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) plans to set up India’s first-ever styrene monomer project, with a capacity to produce 387,000 tpy at its refinery in Panipat. IOCL chairman, Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, noted that petrochemicals like styrene act as a hedge to cyclical performance with better returns.
Styrene is used to produce polystyrene, paints & coatings/acrylic, unsaturated polyester resins and elastomers, such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), amongst other things. As a part of the Panipat refinery expansion project, a new high severity FCCU of 2.5 million tpa capacity, based on Indian Oil's flagship Indmax technology, can maximise LPG production and make basic petrochemical building blocks, including propylene and ethylene.
There is a propylene potential of about 514 KTA in the Panipat FCC expansion, which would be utilised for the production of polypropylene (PP) through a new PP unit. The styrene project aims to utilise the ethylene potential from the Indmax Unit alongside the benzene that is already being produced at the Panipat Complex. The production of styrene would reduce India’s import dependence on this product.
New petrochemical catalyst developments are facilitating the ability to increase styrene production from fossil or renewable based feedstocks. For example, China’s Lihuayi Group chose the Clariant OleMax 101 catalyst for its 1000 KTA olefins plant for high-value olefins recovery from cracked gas and off-gas streams. The OleMax 100 series is used to purify gas streams for acetylene, dienes, oxygen, nitrogen oxides, and heavy metals, in a single reactor, enabling highly cost-efficient olefins production.
In addition, Lihuayi Group’s new 720 KTA styrene plant will rely on Clariant’s StyroMax UL 3 rib-shaped styrene catalyst. Reports indicate the catalyst can produce styrene monomer extremely efficiently due to its high activity, excellent selectivity, and reliable performance at ultra-low steam-to-oil conditions. Combined, these factors provide a greater yield of high-quality styrene with higher efficiency, as well as reduced energy consumption and lower CO2 emissions.
Styrene allows refiners to participate outside traditional fuel markets. For example, Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA Inc (TPRI), a subsidiary of Total SA, is a major producer of polypropylene, polystyrene, styrene, base chemicals, other petroleum-based products in the US.
The company serves various markets, including packaging, agriculture, consumer goods, industrial, and infrastructure and construction. It also operates three petrochemical plants, La Porte PP Plant in Texas and the styrene plant in Carville, Louisiana, and Port Arthur refinery in Texas. Additional styrene projects are expected to be announced in the second half of 2022.
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