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Hydrotreating is an established refinery process for reducing sulphur, nitrogen and aromatics while enhancing cetane number, density and smoke point. The refining industry’s efforts to meet the global trend for more-stringent clean fuels specifications, the growing demand for transportation fuels and the shift toward diesel mean that hydrotreating has become an increasingly important refinery process in recent years.

Shell Global Solutions’ hydrotreating process combines advanced process technology, high-performance catalyst systems and efficient reactor internal designs. This technology has helped many refiners to rise to the clean fuels challenges facing their businesses; operators around the world have licensed new units for their grass-roots facilities. In addition, we apply new catalyst and reactor internals technology to revamp existing units, including upgrading for more complex duties such as dewaxing.

About the technology

Drawing on the Shell Group’s (“Shell”) corporate heritage as the owner and operator of refining facilities, Shell Global Solutions’ technology is designed to operate reliably and efficiently, and to help maximise the return on investment throughout the life cycle of a unit. Our hydrotreating units incorporate Shell’s wide experience base as one of the largest operators of hydrotreating capacity in the world – Shell’s hydrotreating capacity represents 8% of the world’s capacity.

We have experience of a wide range of feedstocks and boiling ranges, including straight-run and cracked feedstocks, such as from fluidised catalytic cracking (FCC ), thermal conversion and coking, and boiling ranges from naphtha to FCC feedstocks.

We also have experience of helping refiners whose winter diesel has suboptimal cold-flow properties. In the past, this was addressed by kerosene blending or end-point reduction, which reduced the value or size of the refinery’s middle distillate pool. Shell’s distillate dewaxing catalyst can help to improve the diesel’s cloud point in a variety of process configurations.

Process description

Hydrotreating technology is based on extensive R&D in catalysts and processes over many decades, combined with lessons learned from operational experience.

In Shell Global Solutions’ hydrotreating process, oil fractions are reacted with hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst to produce high-value clean products. The operating conditions will depend on the final application. For instance, temperatures could range between 350 and 390°C, and pressures between 60 and 90 barg for the production of ultra-low-sulphur diesel (<10 ppm). Several process configurations are available.

The heart of our hydrotreating process is the reactor section, which features a high-pressure reactor vessel and proprietary catalyst and reactor internals technology. The process configuration is optimised for each application to suit operating requirements and customer-specific project economics.

Performance data

From industry studies covering unit performance from 1998 to 2006, a comparison of Shell hydrodesulphurisation (HDS) units with the average industry performance shows clear and sustained advantages.

Table 1: The performance of Shell Global Solutions’ licensed and serviced units reflects Shell’s focus on the key factors that deliver long-term operational excellence and production optimisation.
  Performance improvement compared with industry average
Mechanical availability 1–5%
On-stream factor 1–3%
Utilisation 5%
Turnaround duration 5–15 days
  Source: 2006 benchmarking data

Proof Points

Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC)

KNPC has selected deep HDS technology from Shell Global Solutions for a new refinery complex in Kuwait. This will produce ultra-low-sulphur diesel (<10 ppm) that meets the cold-flow properties required by stringent European Union environmental legislation. The 180,000-bbl/d HDS unit will include our dewaxing catalyst technology.

Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL)

IOCL has selected Shell Global Solutions’ deep HDS technology for a new refinery and petrochemical complex in Paradip, India. Our technology will enable the refinery to use low-quality feedstock components (light cycle oil) to produce diesel fuels that meet stringent diesel specifications. The capacity of the new deep HDS complex will be 120,000 bbl/d.

Business value

Conventional trickle phase units for distillate HDS are based on the two- or four-separator design concept. Shell’s designs have improved heat integration, which can help to reduce energy costs. Industry benchmarking has confirmed that the charge heaters in Shell’s ultra-low-sulphur-diesel units have up to 25°C lower temperature differentials across them, which is a direct measurement of energy efficiency. Moreover, Shell’s designs have helped to reduce the total equipment count and the capital and operating costs.

Discover more

Advanced process and catalyst systems to help optimise unit performance and maximise cycle length.