Bharat Petroleum Corp Limited (BPCL), Mumbai
S S Sunderajan, Executive Director (Mumbai Refinery), BPCL

“Mumbai refinery is implementing an integrated state-of-the-art crude/vacuum unit replacing its old/vintage crude/vacuum units. This unit, in addition to improving mechanical integrity, safety, distillate yield, fuel & loss performance, would allow the refinery to maximise crude intake and create opportunity for setting up residue upgradation unit.”

Both Mumbai and Kochi refineries of BPCL have witnessed significant increase in GRM. While adherence to the plan; reduction in Octroi under-recovery on a/c of implementation of the State Surcharge (SSC) Recovery Scheme; higher distillate yield (although HS crude processing was higher); reduction in year-end crude inventory; maximisation in value added products (% increase wrt last year) such as MS (5%), HSD (2.5%), LOBS (4.4%) etc; implementation of yield improvement measures like - Shell PFIs under (Refinery Performance Improvement Programme) RPIP programme, APC in DHDS, maximisation of bitumen, continued usage of RLNG, recovery of H2 ex CRU off gas, maximum SK absorption in HSD, etc; and better product cracks are the attributable for Mumbai Refinery (MR), GRM at Kochi Refinery (KR) has been benefitted with better product cracks; improved reliability of major units; and improved steam management leading to lower fuel and loss. MR has recently been accredited with ISO 50001 (Energy Management).

Preparing for the Competition
With current installed capacity of 30.5 MMTPA, BPCL has “various strategies for capacity expansions among the group refineries,” says Sunderajan. He reveals that MR is implementing an integrated state-of-the-art crude/vacuum unit replacing its old/vintage crude/vacuum units. This unit, in addition to improving mechanical integrity, safety, distillate yield, fuel & loss performance, would allow the refinery to maximise crude intake and create opportunity for setting up residue upgradation unit. He further talks about Kochi refinery, “KR is implementing a capacity expansion project - Integrated Refinery Expansion Project (IREP), to achieve crude capacity of 15.5 MMTPA by 2015-16. A delayed coker is also being installed as a part of this project for residue upgradation.”

BPCL also plans to raise capacity of its Bina refinery in Madhya Pradesh to 7.8-8.0 MMTPA and expand the Numaligarh refinery to 9.0 MMTPA from the current 3 MMTPA. Numaligarh refinery in Assam has started manufacturing value-added products which include microcrystalline and paraffin wax which has a huge market in India and are currently being imported.

Sunderajan informs that FY 2013-14 saw BPCL commencing full-fledged project activities at KR for the IREP which is aimed at taking the refining throughput to 15.5 MMTPA from current levels of 9.5 MMTPA. IREP is not just an expansion project but also aimed at improving complexity from current levels of 6.3 to 9.6, thereby giving flexibility to even process opportunity crudes such as high TAN crudes. Addition of delayed coker unit to upgrade low value heavy fuels from the entire 15.5 MMTPA refinery into high value distillate products and coke will make the refinery world class, in the years to come. He says, “The completion of these and already discussed efficiency improvement or upgradation projects will enhance value to BPCL and all its stakeholders. Hence aggressive timelines for project execution have been set to ensure averting of time or cost overruns and also accrual of earlier pay back.”

MR has been in the forefront for producing and supplying environment friendly and Euro compliant fuels, well ahead of the government mandates as amply demonstrated time and again over the years. Sunderajan says, “BPCL-MR developed a strategic road map for implementation considering both short and long term auto fuel product quality mandates in line with Dr Mashelkar committee report. As a first step, MR commissioned Refinery Modernisation Project (RMP) in 2005, consisting of Integrated Crude/Vacuum Distillation Units, Hydro Cracker, Hydrogen Generation and associated treatment facilities & revamped Catalytic Reforming Unit (CRU) for meeting the 2005 mandates.” He further reveals that in 2006, MR set up a base oil plant for production of environmentally friendly superior grade Group 2 base oils. With this, MR was one of the first refineries in India to supply Group II+ superior grade base oils, which is used as feedstock in Lubricants manufacture.

According to Sunderajan, to meet the BS III/BS IV fuel mandate from April 2010 for auto fuels, MR implemented FCCU Gasoline splitting facility and revamped DHDS/hydro cracker. All the above projects have been implemented and BPCL Mumbai refinery has been supplying BS III/BS IV auto fuels as per mandate given under the current Auto fuel policy. “With a view to further increase Motor Spirit (MS) production, MR has recently commissioned (March 2014) a state-of-the-art Continuous Catalytic Regenerative (CCR) Reformer. This project enables upgradation of Naphtha for maximising production of BS-III / BS-IV Motor spirit,” he continues.

MR has also progressively implemented plant modifications to maximise the highly valorised C3 production from its refinery, which is used as petrochemical feedstock. Over the years, MR has been consistently manufacturing other niche products like benzene (PC Feedstock), toluene (PC feedstock/explosives), SBP/hexane/MTO (solvents), MTBE (MS additive for captive use), viscosity grade bitumen (road laying), etc. Over the years, keeping the customer in focus, MR has been improving the quality and meeting new parameters of these products, as required by the customers.

Value Additions
MR is implementing the following projects to increase value additions and thus the profitability of the refinery:
  • CCR has been recently commissioned. Sustained operation of the same would enable upgradation of naphtha for maximising production of BS-III/ BS-IV Motor spirit
  • An integrated state-of-the-art crude/vacuum unit replacing vintage crude/vacuum units. This unit, in addition to improving mechanical integrity, safety, and distillate yield (3%); fuel & loss performance (0.75%wt) would also enable MR to maximise its crude throughput
  • Naphtha Isomerisation unit, which would upgrade naphtha to more value added MS product
  • Flare gas recovery facility to reduce flare losses and reducing emissions
  • A new diesel hydrotreater unit for production of 100% Euro-IV and Euro-V diesel
  • Various low capital cost energy saving and yield improvement schemes/projects identified during “Refinery Performance Improvement Programme (RPIP)” with a reputed international consultant
Further, a configuration study has been carried out through a reputed consultant, which is in final stage. This would help MR in finalising the strategy for residue upgradation which needs to be adopted for increasing profitability, discloses Sunderajan. “MR is also implementing APC programmes in all its process/ utilities units for effective optimisation and to get maximum output by management of multiple variables and constraints. Blend Property Control or Blend Ratio Control is being implemented for MS, HSD & FO which would improve profitability by reducing giveaway and ensuring first-time right online batch preparation. Further, latest monitoring & optimisation tools which have been implemented, like Aspen suites, Business Process Management and Information (BPMAI) are also being utilised for effective control of various parameters which would improve the bottom line,” he adds.

Refining and Petrochemical Integration
Sunderajan expresses his views on refining and petrochemical integration and believes that world-class companies would leverage and synergise on raw materials or product integration and the total supply chain across the globe to successfully penetrate the markets. He exemplifies, “A refining cum marketing company would integrate into their business the upstream E&P sector as also the downstream petrochemical sector so as to secure the cheap feed stock availability and overcome the cyclical issues associated with product volatility.”

Low value streams from refinery like refinery off gas, propane/propylene, butane/butylenes/butenes, naphtha, kerosene, residues, coke, etc can be valorised multi-fold by integration with Petrochemical (PC) plants which convert these cheap feedstock into very high value PC or chemicals, he reveals further. “Even the return or reject streams from PC plants like Propane, Pygas, heaviers from Naphtha crackers, etc can be valorised by refiners into LPG / MS / HSD etc.”

According to Sunderajan, leveraging on such integration it is possible to reduce freight cost and transit losses, optimise working capital and increase savings on capex. He adds, “As a corporation, we have already entered into the upstream sectors. This would provide us a hedge in the years to come. Even though it is prudent to integrate in the downstream PC sector, space constraint at MR does not allow us to do so. However, as discussed earlier, we do have in our product portfolio C3, benzene, toluene, naphtha, LABFS, etc which are used as PC feedstock by our customers. We do maximise these high value products based on the demand, so as to improve our profitability. Hence these existing assets are sweated based on the demand.”

The quality of fuel products is being made stringent day-by-day due to pressures from various agencies, government bodies and increasing awareness of the common man, and this is what Sunderajan believes, the biggest challenges faced by refiners. He comments, “This would change the ball game for refiners as it necessitates setting up of very costly treatment units, at times without commensurate benefits from the market. This could make or break a refiner since it erodes their operating margins. We are trying to gear up for this by implementing some bottom upgradation measure in tandem with the treatment units and also educating all the allied agencies on bringing in prudent and practical changes, which would benefit the country in a holistic manner.”

MR when commissioned in 1955 was in the outskirts of the city. However, as is the case with many of the refineries, the city has developed around it and hence today you find it in the middle of a populous inhabitation, he continues.

He adds that this brings tremendous pressure on operating refineries and also inhibits refinery growth (in terms of land availability for expansion). “We at MR have implemented various safety/environmental measures so that our operations remain environmentally and safety neutral. We have educated the community around us and also provided them aids through our CSR activities so as to take them along with us.”

Post complete deregulation, the OMCs are going to face severe challenges on sustaining competitiveness considering world scale, operationally efficient and complex refiners will be in a position to offer products at competitive costs, Sunderajan predicts.

In today’s volatile global market place, refineries are constantly challenged to maintain growth and profitability in the face of constant demand for top quality products at low prices. Sunderajan believes that a highly competitive market in combination with rising energy and feedstock costs require industries to increase production while decreasing operating costs. This leads to a relentless pressure to shorten lead times and to cut costs without sacrificing product quality or standards of service, Sunderajan concludes.