Hydrocracking is an established and reliable method for transforming low-value heavy oil fractions into products with a higher value. In today’s market, refinery operators face a range of new technical, regulatory and commercial challenges: ensuring that their operations meet environmental standards; complying with new fuel specifications; and upgrading their refinery’s ability to meet capacity and quality targets.

Shell Global Solutions’ dual-service hydrocracking process technology combines advanced process know-how with high-performance catalyst systems and efficient reactor internal designs. This combination provides high levels of availability that deliver consistently high yields of quality products in an energy-efficient manner: all essential in enabling refinery performance to be optimised cost-effectively.

Within the Shell Group (“Shell”) there is a drive for continuous improvement. The performance of process units, including hydrocrackers, is benchmarked for several parameters against best-in-class performers. Hydrocrackers can have a significant impact on refinery margins. Key performance indicators include sustained capacity and utilisation; downtime; product yields and properties; and operating costs related to energy efficiency, hydrogen, manpower and catalysts. Such benchmarking drives the development of and the innovation behind our hydrocracking processes and catalysts.

About the technology

Shell Global Solutions provides field-proven hydrocracking designs that emphasise reliability, flexibility and simplicity of operation.

Shell Global Solutions leverages operating experience from across Shell – one of the world’s largest operators of hydrocracking units.

The extent of Shell’s operations gives us a clear insight into refining distressed crudes (those containing high nitrogen levels or with a high total acid number) and processing difficult hydrocracker feedstocks (those containing high nitrogen levels and having a high end point) while meeting ever-more demanding product specifications. Shell operates hydrocrackers processing a wide variety of feedstocks: coker gas oils, fluidised catalytic cracker cycle oils, deasphalted oils (DAO), thermally cracked distillates and hydroprocessed gas oils. Extra-deep straight-run vacuum distillates with true boiling point (TBP) cut points of up to 590°C (TBP 90wt% of 570°C) are processed in several licensed units.

Process description

Our dual-service hydrocracking process configuration partially converts feedstocks to produce lubricant base oils, catalytic cracker or ethylene cracker feedstocks, and high-quality distillates for automotive fuels.

Figure 1: The dual-service hydrocracking process. For each new application, we match the optimum configuration with the given feedstock and the required processing objectives. Additional product slate flexibility can be achieved through the choice of catalyst system or by adjusting the process conditions.

Proof Points

China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC)

CNOOC licensed Shell Global Solutions’ hydrocracking technology as part of its new refinery in Guangzhou Province, China. It is the highest capacity hydrocracker in the country, and is designed to produce diesel and jet fuel that meet future stringent Chinese specifications while producing high-quality feedstock for the new ethylene cracker in the Nanhai petrochemical complex.

Marathon Oil Corporation

Marathon’s Garyville refinery in the USA is embarking on a $3.2-billion expansion. The 180,000-bbl/d project will increase the refinery’s capacity to 425,000 bbl/d. As part of the expansion, Marathon has signed a license for a hydrocracker from Shell Global Solutions (US) Inc. The 70,000-bbl/d unit will, in part, enable Marathon to convert vacuum gas oil feedstocks into clean fuels such as ultra-low-sulphur diesel. The license includes the technology, the process design package, the reactor internals and catalysts provided by Shell’s catalyst company Criterion Catalysts & Technologies.

Performance data

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

From industry studies covering unit performance from 1998 to 2006 Mechanical availability was 1-5%, On-stream factor was 2-9%, Utilisation was 5%, Turnaround duration was 8-16 days. Source: 2006 benchmarking data.

Shell Global Solutions offers a hydrocracker product work-up section that features a single main fractionator. This innovative configuration provides a 35–40% reduction in fractionation furnace energy consumption when compared with the conventional stripper–fractionator configuration.

Business value

We validate our innovations quickly in our own facilities; this facilitates proven, reliable and up-to-date technology.

Discover More


Key insights into the potential and capabilities of hydrocracking.

  • Hydrocracking: an overview of the misconceptions

Related Catalysts

Learn about our partners Criterion Catalysts and how they help us achieve our goals.

Find out more about unlocking high performance in today’s turbulent markets, in the Next-Level Hydrocracker Flexibility Whitepaper.

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Contact Shell Global Solutions

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