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The Integration of Biofuels “Inside the Refinery Gate”: Operability and Profitability


It is clear from current plans and activities at the world’s major refineries that responsibility for managing the growing use of biofuels will ultimately be passed through the refiner’s gate. As a result, refining companies, along with their product and technology suppliers, will be required to work together to reach economically viable, and likely innovative, approaches. Beyond these hurdles, the broad-ranging and often conflicting government mandates, supports/credits, R&D funding and other issues will further cloud the outlook for reasonable and viable routes long-term.

TCGR’s study, entitled The Integration of Biofuels “Inside the Refinery Gate:” Implementation, Logistics and Strategies, leads to assessments for both operability and profitability focusing on issues such as:

- Ethanol: Ethanol as a gasoline substitute can reduce the amount of hydrogen produced from the naphtha reformer which must be compensated with either an increase in hydrogen production from the refinery hydrogen plant or an increase in purchased hydrogen.

- Biodiesel (FAME): Blending higher pour point FAME reduces the amount of petroleum diesel the refiner can produce. In addition, operating a refinery to be able to accept FAMEs with different cold flow properties will be costly. FAME is also more chemically active than petroleum based diesel and will cause some commonly used seal and hose materials materials to fail and sludges and gums to form.

- Green diesel: Triglycerides consume roughly five times more hydrogen per barrel of feed and the heat of reaction is also roughly five times higher than typical diesel HDS feeds. Including green diesel in the diesel pool will require an end point reduction in the other blend components. The heavy stream that can no longer be included in diesel must be processed on the FCC, vacuum gas oil hydrocracker, or blended into heavy fuel oil.

- Pyrolysis oils will increase the hydrogen consumption on the naphtha pretreater and the distillate hydrotreater and require an increase in severity to remove the additional heteroatoms. Thermally derived oils generally make poor FCC feeds, so the FCC yields from the heavy portion of the pyrolysis oil will be low.

Targeted towards refiners, the study addresses the integration and strategic/competitive issues across refinery platforms in biofuels while examining both present and future products and technologies.


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