European Refining Technology Conference – ERTC 27-29.11.2018 in Cannes.
“Visbreaking beyond IMO 2020”
by Jari Marci

— Summary—

With the upcoming regulatory change of IMO2020, the viability of operating a visbreaker is challenged.
A case study was conducted to investigate the options of a refiner with a VBU to mitigate or even benefit from this event.  Two future price sets (one aggressive, one moderate) were used to frame the likely implications of IMO2020.
The financial implications of the introduction of IMO2020 were assessed to be in the order of -1.1 – -1.8 USD/bbl, which will put refiners, exposed to the marine fuel oil market under financial strain. Operational improvement can help to reduce the financial impact by up to 20%. The selection of crude oils with low residue content can reduce this impact by an additional 40%. The key financial opportunity related to the introduction of IMO2020 is the option to produce low sulphur residual marine fuel oil with a sulphur content of 0.5%wt sulphur. This is possible provided the VBU features a vacuum flasher, appropriate crude oils are selected and all diluents are fully desulphurized. Provided these premises can be met, the refiner can improve his margin by +2.2 – +4.1 USD/bbl.
Should a refiner wish to exit the marine fuel oil market the VBU can still be a beneficial unit.
One option is to find a consumer for undiluted residue or by adding a secondary residue upgrading unit (DCU, SDA, gasifier). In both cases, minimizing the residue volume is of key interest. If the residue is handled as a pure stream, conversion of the VBU can be increased beyond conventional fuel oil levels. In this way, a VBU can be converted into a residue destruction machine allowing to reduce the residue volume down to 55%.

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