Refiners think bigger
The world refining system will need extensive reconstruction to meet likely changes in transport fuels demand
ONE safe forecast for refiners is that their operations will become more intensive and will be carried out in fewer, larger, complexes in coming years. While demand is moving towards lighter and cleaner refined products, the world’s crude production is becoming heavier and with a higher sulphur content.
Reconciling the two trends will call for the construction of a large volume of bottom-of-the-barrel processing capacity – particularly hydrocracking and delayed coking units, to crack heavy residues into middle distillates. But such units need to be large, with a capacity of 50,000 barrels a day (b/d) or more, to benefit from the economies of scale. A refinery with a distillation capacity of much less than 200,000 b/d will not produce enough feedstock to support such a large volume of bottom-of-the-barrel capacity – so the world’s smaller refineries will face increasingly challenging economics. The...
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