Future Refineries will be Evolving with ‘Complex & Integrated’ Configurations
- S C Mehta, Executive Director – Refineries, Project Process, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL)

HPCL is implementing Visakh Refinery Modernisation Project (VRMP) wherein existing Visakh Refinery capacity expansion from 8.33 MMTPA to 15 MMTPA is envisaged. As a part of this project, latest bottoms upgradation facilities will also be implemented in the refinery. This project will improve the overall profitability of HPCL. The environmental clearance is being pursued. Further, the corporation is also expanding Mumbai Refinery capacity from 6.5 MMTPA to 10 MMTPA. The detailed feasibility report of both the projects has been prepared by Engineers India Limited (EIL). In an exclusive email interaction with S C Mehta, Executive Director – Refineries, Project Process, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL), Harshal Y Desai seeks further insights into the development. According to Mehta, the expansion will help the corporation reduce the imbalance between marketing and refining capacity.

HPCL, a Navratna PSU downstream refining and marketing company, produces MS, HSD, LPG, ATF, SKO, etc and Lubes. It operates two refineries - in Mumbai and Visakhapatnam along with a JV Refinery – HPCL-Mittal Energy Limited (HMEL) in Bhatinda, Punjab. Additionally, it has 16.95 per cent stake in Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL) as well. Its marketing infrastructure comprises of 35 Terminals, 90 Depots, 46 LPG Plants, 35 ASFs, 7 Lube Blending Plants, 12869 Retail Outlets, 1638 SKO Dealers and 3506 LPG Dealers. HPCL has 20 per cent market share with Annual Turnover of ` 2.32 lakh crores.

As the organisation states, “HPCL, along with its joint ventures, will be a fully integrated company in the hydrocarbons sector of exploration and production, refining and marketing; focusing on enhancement of productivity, quality and profitability; caring for customers and employees; caring for environment protection and cultural heritage. It will also attain scale dimensions by diversifying into other energy related fields and by taking up transnational operations.”

esides expansion in Visakh and Mumbai refinery, HPCL is in the process of getting environmental clearance for a 9 MMTPA grass-root Refinery-cum-Petrochemical Complex, Rajasthan Refinery Project (RRP) in Pachpadra, Rajasthan. Currently the Project financial terms of the JV are being reviewed by Government of Rajasthan, Mehta reveals.

Feasibility of 15 MMTPA Refinery-cum- Petrochemical Complex under PCPIR Project in Andhra Pradesh is also being explored along with GAIL Limited.

New FCCU Project
HPCL has also implemented a new FCCU Project at a cost of ` 900 crores. Mehta replies that with the commissioning of this project, HPCL Mumbai Refinery is able to produce high value distillate products like LPG and MS and this contributes towards higher refinery margins. The New FCC Unit has incorporated a number of state-of-the-art features which facilitate a high severity and high conversion operation and upgradation of heavy low value streams of the Refinery. Facilities include an integrated Flue Gas Scrubber (technology sourced from BELCO, USA), which will considerably bring down SO2 and SPM emissions, much lower than the stipulated pollution control norms. The design includes provision of catalyst cooler facilities which allow processing of heavy feed stock. Catalyst cooler is the first of its kind in the country and technology supplied by UOP of USA and indigenously fabricated by L&T for the first time.

Refinery Integration with Petrochemical Unit
While replying to the question on refinery and integration with petrochemicals unit as an economic growth driver, Mehta says that as energy demand growing along with higher energy cost, the value addition at refinery can be brought through ensuring reliability to maximise availability and asset utilisation at increasing refining complexity. “Also, India has untapped potential in petrochemical and chemical industries due to low per capita (~10 kg vs 25 kg global average in 2013) polymer consumption and higher growth rate. On the other side, refinery has low value streams like off gas, pet coke, fuel oil, sulphur, etc which give potential for synergy with petrochemical/chemical sectors to bring value addition to refinery,” he adds further. “Thus, future refineries will be evolving with refinery configurations which are highly complex and integrated with petrochemicals, chemical and power plants to up-grade bottom of the barrel and low value streams for maximise profitability.”

Mehta elaborates on the increasing regulatory requirements, refinery complexity and demands for higher quality that continues to place higher economic demands on refineries while reducing operational margins and elucidates that refineries in the current scenario are facing various challenges like volatile crude oil prices, higher operating cost incurred due to high cost of captive power, meeting product specification BS V/VI (MS & HSD) with varying crude mix and continuous quality upgradation to meet stringent environmental stipulations requires substantial investment but low returns. He emphasises that huge investment are required for grass root refinery with bottom of the barrel upgradation etc. Apart from the above, refinery low value streams like Petcoke, off gas, sulfur, FO, etc which further lowers the margins if not upgraded.

Mehta also comments on the falling crude oil prices and explains that falling crude oil prices do not add to refinery GRMs as refinery GRMs are dependent on difference between crude & product prices. The product prices are revised every fortnightly, hence, with falling in crude oil price, product prices also get revised. Thus, refinery GRM does not add up with falling crude prices. However, the inventory losses will have impact (negative effect) on GRM.

Auto Fuel Vision & Policy 2025
HPCL is also gearing up to meet the requirements of India’s Auto Fuel Vision & Policy 2025 document that suggests that the fuels should meet Euro IV standards by 2017, Euro V standards by 2020. Mehta discloses that in order to have 100 per cent BS IV or switch to BS IV / V for MS and HSD specifications from present Euro III / IV MS, HSD specifications, certain debottlenecking will be required in HPCL’s existing refineries which will require time and cost. HPCL, however, may fit into the time frames envisioned by Auto Fuel Policy 2025 (depending on the extent of debottlenecking required).

HPCL has taken necessary steps for debottlenecking of existing refineries MS and HSD facilities to meet BS IV standards by 2017 in line with the Auto fuel policy. HPCL is implementing expansion Project at VR & MR wherein MS and HSD facilities of BS V /BS VI standard are envisaged, he states further.

Investment into GFECP and Clean Fuel Project
In order to produce Euro III/IV MS at our Refineries, HPCL has successfully implemented Green Fuels Emission Control (GFEC) Project at Mumbai Refinery and Visakh Refinery Clean Fuels Project (VRCFP) at cost of `1700 cores and ` 2100 crores respectively. Mehta explains that both the projects comprise of Naphtha Hydrotreater Unit, Continuous Catalytic Reformer Unit, Isomerisation Unit and FCC Naphtha Hydrotreater unit with associated Utilities and Offsites. “We have also successfully implemented Euro IV HSD Quality Upgradation Projects at our both the refineries at total cost of ` 5200 cores. These projects comprise of Diesel Hydrotreater Unit, Hydrogen Generation Unit and Sulphur Recovery Unit with associated Utilities and Offsites giving us the capability to provide Euro IV MS and HSD in 11 major cities and Euro III MS and HSD in rest of the country,” he adds.

‘HP HiGAS’ (Hindustan Petroleum-HiGee Gas Absorption System)
‘HP HiGAS’ (Hindustan Petroleum-HiGee Gas Absorption System) is a major milestone by R&D in developing New Generation Refining Technologies. Mehta informs that the technology is a first of its kind technology in the refining industry and is based on the principles of process intensification for separation processes.

“The first commercial HP-HiGAS unit was successfully commissioned at HPCL, Visakh Refinery. The operation of the HP-HiGAS unit at Visakh Refinery involves removal of H2S from Refinery Fuel Gases from a level of 5 wt% to 100 ppm using Amine as the absorbent, which is similar to that of the already existing Fuel Gas Amine Absorption Unit (FGAAU) column in the Visakh Refinery. The remarkable breakthrough achieved with this technology is the plant size reduction by 10 times, with a 2.5 mts. HP-HiGAS unit replacing the existing conventional trayed FGAAU column of 23 mts,” Mehta reveals.

On the momentum provided by IIT Kanpur Mehta replies that the technology was initially developed by IIT Kanpur. HPCL collaborated with IIT Kanpur for scaling up of the Technology. The original design of IIT Kanpur was based on two rotors and associated components. However, during the scale-up stage through the help of rotor modelling analysis, it was found that such design is vulnerable to mechanical failure due to centrifugal actions. Considering high level of safety and reliability required for adapting to actual plant conditions, the technology was further developed and taken forward by HPCL R&D Centre with a new and simplified design of a single rotor machine.

This single rotor design has been successfully demonstrated at Visakh Refinery with satisfactory mechanical and process performance which is in line with existing Fuel Gas Amine Absorption tower.