An FCC sustainability game changer (ERTC)

As the post-pandemic world reflects the return of strong demand and profits for oil refined products, there are increased incentives to use FCC premium catalyst technologies that ensure the optimum liquid products yield and maximum unit availability.

Lamma Khodeir
W. R. Grace & Co

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Article Summary

This cannot be disengaged from the ongoing decarbonisation journey, which requires us to minimise the carbon intensity of our products. Grace is fully committed to closely supporting the refining industry in this challenging energy transition by providing cutting-edge technologies and redefining how we operate the FCC unit in this new era.

FUSION® catalyst technology is the latest innovation from W. R. Grace designed to deliver stand-out coke-to-bottoms performance and higher value product yields across a range of feed profiles. The unique aspect of this catalyst is its advanced matrix binding system, which allows us to integrate our proven technologies for coke selectivity, metals passivation, and bottoms cracking performance into a single-particle solution. This novel technology has been successfully used in 16 commercial units around the world to date, with further trials likely later in 2022 and early 2023.

Grace has a long history of delivering value to refiners by offering catalyst systems that combine a high zeolite to matrix ratio (Z/M) coke selective, metals tolerant catalyst component with a low Z/M bottoms cracking component. Over a decade of laboratory and commercial experience has proven that these catalyst systems exceed the performance of the individual component technologies.

Through manufacturing and processing advancements, Grace has developed a pathway to combine the benefits of high Z/M coke selectivity and low Z/M bottoms upgrading into a single catalyst solution – FUSION catalyst. With this combination of proven technologies, the functional materials in the catalyst interact to deliver improved performance over catalyst system offerings, which was previously not possible. This new technology increases the functional qualities of Grace’s IVT vanadium trap, low coke matrix (LCM) Ni passivation, and bottoms cracking matrix (made popular in our MIDAS platform). All FUSION catalyst offerings contain optimised and uniformly distributed metals trapping technologies and matrix functions without sacrificing catalyst physical properties.

Case Study
A commercial trial involved a unit that had successfully used Grace catalyst technologies for over 25 years. The refiner decided to perform back-to-back commercial trials against two competitors, which led to direct performance comparisons. The typical operation for this FCC unit includes a feed Conradson Carbon content of 3.9 wt% and an Ecat Ni + V content of 5500 mg/kg due to significant resid processing. As observed in the summary within Figure 1, the two competitor trials led to higher regenerator temperatures, lower resid throughput and poorer yields in one case and increased catalyst additions in the other case. In contrast, the FUSION catalyst trial helped successfully meet the key trial objectives, which primarily corresponded to enhanced conversion, further feed quality flexibility, and improved product selectivities. These cumulative benefits helped unlock $0.55-$1.17/bbl of additional value, depending on the governing product price set and desired mode of operation.

As refiners intend to decarbonise their operations and maximise their high-value liquid products production, we identified cases in which it was difficult to properly correlate unit conversion with profitability while assessing operating conditions to reduce FCC unit carbon intensity. Indeed, as the LCO market strengthens, this was often the case for those refiners extracting value from this product. In our standard conversion definition, high-value LCO appears as unconverted material, whereas undesired low-value products such as coke or dry gas account as conversion. This contradiction is addressed by means of redefined Grace Value Conversion, as shown in Figure 2. For the present case study, it was proven that economic profitability correlated extremely well with the redefined conversion definition and helped to identify a unit severity in which the carbon intensity was reduced (see Table 1).

The carbon tax on refinery CO₂ emissions as part of broader decarbonisation efforts to fight climate change has an impact on refinery profitability besides the achieved yield structure. To improve their competitiveness, refiners have various strategies to reduce their carbon footprint and associated costs. Coke selectivity of an FCC catalyst can play a role in supporting these efforts, as concluded by FCC Alliance after assessing the CO2 intensity of multiple FCC units.1 Due to lower coke yield make and the higher yield of liquid products, FUSION catalyst supports unlocking an additional value by reducing the CO₂ emissions at constant operating conditions by 14 kMT per year (see Table 1) for this customer.

The carbon penalty impacting a refinery’s margin is proportional to the refinery emission intensity and the carbon price. Depending on the emissions trading system (ETS) cost, the additional value can increase with the carbon price. The optimised gas and coke selectivity of FUSION catalyst helped to provide an additional financial benefit in excess of 1.2 M€/annum while supporting the environmental sustainability efforts.

The successful quick implementation of FUSION catalyst denotes the clear benefits of this innovation in terms of increased high-value liquid products at reduced coke and gas make while enhancing FCC bottoms destruction.

Besides, the correct combination of this technology and an optimised set of operating conditions enables refiners to minimise CO₂ emissions, which apart from contributing to meet global warming targets, results in a direct Opex reduction through the ETS credits system in the EU. This way, we provide you with the complete solution that decarbonises your unit while increasing your profits. Ask your Grace representative how we can help you.

This short article originally appeared in the 2022 ERTC Newspapers, which you can view HERE

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