Reduce emissions and improve refinery profitability
Tools and solutions for the naphtha complex and beyond.Today, refineries and petrochemical facilities across the globe are faced with the challenges of doing more while consuming and emitting less. Each facility is unique, and the ultimate collection of solutions employed to meet the goals and timelines will be different.
J Mark Houdek, Pankaj K Singh, Srinivasan Ramanujam and Ian Clarke
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But there are tools and such as efficiency-oriented idea workshops and emission reduction roadmaps and that can be used across these facilities, new and existing, to ensure projects and investments are cost effective and focused on each companys Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals.
The Six Efficiencies (E6)
At Honeywell UOP, the focus is on the Six Efficiencies, or E6 model (see Figure 1).1 By paying specific attention to these items, we are developing and delivering solutions directed at environmental and societal requirements while improving economic return for our refining and petrochemical customers.
The Six Efficiencies are:
• Carbon - Maximising value from each barrel of crude to go from feed to product as efficiently as possible. Too often, as engineers, we love taking one molecule to make another. But just because we can does not mean we should, especially if it is inefficient.
• Hydrogen - Balancing and utilising the hydrogen inherent in the feedstocks to minimise the production of on-purpose hydrogen and avoid the emissions it would generate. Put hydrogen on and take hydrogen off to do good things but do it as infrequently as possible.
• Utilities - Striving for lowest energy usage and cost per ton of product produced.
• Emissions - Striving for the smallest emissions footprint for the entire process portfolio or project scope.
• Water - Treating water as a scarce resource because it is. Some geographies are extremely stressed in this aspect, and we need to minimise new water consumption regardless of source.
• Capital - Measuring capital efficiency by variables such as Internal Rate of Return (IRR), Net Present Value (NPV), and/or Debt Coverage Ratio (DCR). Projects must be bankable, or they simply are not projects.
Historical benchmarking is a lagging indicator that looks at how facilities are performing compared to expectations. However, the E6 framework is forward looking. It is a planning tool to help refining and petrochemical facilities make investment decisions that position themselves better compared to historical benchmarking or considering the next best alternative.
As technology and the industry progresses, the Six Efficiencies for any investment being considered are now put up against these advanced benchmarks. It is no longer good enough for a project merely to be equal to previous generations.
The E6 model looks at the entire complex or even the full set of corporate-owned production assets, considering current operations and future investments. Benchmarking on an individual technology or process unit can be done, but for most organisations this evaluation should be much bigger.
It should consider all variables, so all degrees of freedom are being utilised to ensure overall performance in keeping with the corporation’s objectives and values.
Figure 2 illustrates how each efficiency is benchmarked when considering a new petrochemical facility. Any proposed or considered solutions are evaluated to understand if the changes will bring improvements or not. These kinds of evaluations are critical since some aspects might be more important and worth a trade-off.
Four pillars for reducing emissions
Embarking on a journey to reduce emissions while improving profitability often raises various possible tactics to achieve strategic shifts. These generally fit into one of four approaches, or pillars.
The first potentially significant approach is a shift away from fuels production toward a strategy favouring petrochemicals production. In this strategy, the operator takes advantage of the market dynamics of slowing growth for gasoline and diesel and the growing demand for petrochemicals.
This approach may reduce or eliminate production of traditional transportation fuels that are ultimately combusted. This can be performed incrementally, for example by directing the LPG from an FCC into a propylene recovery unit for the ultimate production of polypropylene. Or it can be a wholesale overhaul of the business model and markets served. This strategy could have a significant positive impact on Scope 3 emissions.
The second pillar considers feedstock substitution. This could entail installing a new process unit to produce sustainable aviation fuel or green diesel or could be the incremental approach of coprocessing renewable feedstocks through an existing hydrotreater, hydrocracker, or FCC to produce renewable fuels. This also would have a positive impact on Scope 3 emissions.
The third pillar focuses on Scope 1 emissions by installing technology to capture carbon at the source and then transporting this CO2 for further use or sequestration. Carbon capture is likely most applicable to the process stacks associated with the FCC unit and steam methane reformer. Application to fired furnace stacks also is possible.
The fourth pillar involves technology and energy-focused improvements. This is aligned with the E6 framework and can positively impact Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions defined overleaf. This can apply to both new process unit investments and revamping of existing facilities and assets. This pillar includes operational best practices, such as solutions that can be done at any time to improve unit performance, reduce energy consumption and resulting emissions, and improve profitability. A small inventory of such ideas that could be considered and acted on are shown in Figure 3.
Integration of pillars and E6 model
The four pillars, with the embedded Six Efficiencies, can quickly lead to a large idea inventory covering a wide range of implementation schedules, capital investment, yield shifts, and economic and emission-reduction impacts.
A Concept Development Workshop can start to bring these ideas together into a single view to evaluate potential and chart a strategy. In these workshops, all ideas are presented and discussed. Determination is made if it is worthy of further study. The workshop is a collaborative discussion among various individuals, including those familiar with the corporation’s goals and constraints, assets, flexibility, and existing limitations.
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