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Crude Distillation Technologies. Company Name. Clay Buie and Matt Heckendorn Thursday April 30 th , 2009. Project Objective. Evaluate energy consumption and production rates of 5 new Crude Distillation Technologies Compare to Conventional Atmospheric Distillation

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Crude distillation technologies

Crude Distillation Technologies

Company Name

Clay Buie and Matt Heckendorn

Thursday April 30th, 2009

Project objective
Project Objective

  • Evaluate energy consumption and production rates of 5 new Crude Distillation Technologies

  • Compare to Conventional Atmospheric Distillation

  • Evaluate Economics of potential energy savings and increases in product yields

Need for improvement
Need for Improvement

  • Conventional crude oil distillation is a very energy-demanding process

  • Depletion of crude reserves, processing costs and environmental concerns warrant energy-efficient distillation techniques

  • Largest processing quantity of all petroleum and chemical processing units

  • Minor improvements may generate significant profits

What is crude distillation
What is Crude Distillation

Molecular Weight


First of many major processes in transforming crude oil into usable products at an oil refinery

Thermal separation of crude oil into products (naphtha, kerosene, diesel, gas oil, residue) based on different boiling point volatilities




Gas oil


Atmospheric crude distillation
Atmospheric Crude Distillation

  • Furnace heats crude to flash temperature of feed tray

  • Lighter components rise through column

  • Side Columns strip lighter components from liquid draws









Separating components
Separating Components

  • Lighter component vapors separate from heavy residue liquid in the flash zone of the furnace outlet

  • Stripping Steam promotes separation

    • Side Strippers maintain product “gaps” and recover lighter components from liquid draws

    • Stripping Steam separates light components from residue liquid at bottom of the column

Product composition
Product Composition

  • Products are not pure components but contain a range of molecular weights and normal boiling point temperatures

  • The boiling point range gives information on the composition, properties, behavior, and value of each product

  • The amount of product overlap is maintained to control the quality of lighter products.

Product gaps
Product Gaps

  • Products defined by their ASTM D86 5% and 95% endpoint temperatures.

  • Overlap defined by D86 “5%-95%” gaps of neighboring products where:

    5%(Heavy)-95%(Light) = value

95% light

5% Heavy



Flow rate


Large gap values yield sharper cuts but also cost more to maintain

Separation opportunity
Separation Opportunity

  • Conventional distillation is limited to separation in the furnace and stripping steam sources

  • Unfortunately, not all light components can be separated from residue in bottom of main column

  • Ability to separate more volatile components from intermediates and residue can be explored

Intermediates Trapped

Method of comparison
Method of Comparison

  • Created Process Simulations of 5 technology configurations

  • Maintained operating conditions, product compositions/gaps, and feed specifications

  • New configurations focus on separation techniques and lowering burden of furnace

  • Seeking lower heating utility needed at furnace, and lower yields of residue bottoms

Invention 1 vapor stripping
Invention 1 – Vapor Stripping

Gas oil stripper

Stripping steam is limited, so light weight vapors are used to strip intermediate components.

Gas Oil



Compressor work and vapor flow-rate is not significant enough to negatively affect economics.

Flash Drum


Invention 1 vapor stripping1
Invention 1 – Vapor Stripping

For all types of crude, increased yield of gas oil and diesel, reduced residue.

No change in heating utility, although increase in cooling utility.

Carrier effect
Carrier Effect

With intermediates removed, the lighter components create a “vacuum” as they rise up the column, pulling more intermediates from the residue cut.


components removed in preflash.

Invention 2 feed preflash
Invention 2 – Feed Preflash

Removes intermediates before they are fed into the column to increase carrier effect.


Flash Drum 2


Flash Drum 1


Main Steam

Gas Oil


Invention 2 – Feed Preflash

Reduction in residue decreases with increase in crude weight.

Reduction of furnace utility and cooling utility.

Invention 3 – Compressed VS

Gas Oil Stripper

Higher stripping pressure.

Injected vapors include light weight vapors and lightends in addition to intermediate weight vapors.



Flash Drum

Invention 3 – Compressed VS

Higher stripping pressure reduces effectiveness of carrier effect.

Highest increases in gas oil production across all crudes.

Increases diesel production in heavier crudes.

Slightly increases heating utility.

Invention 4 – Combined 2&3

Feed Preflash

Compressed VS

Adversely affects diesel production.

The two designs offset each other.

Unprofitable for intermediate crude.

Invention 5 – Combined 1&2

Feed Preflash

Vapor Stripping

Second highest increase in diesel and gas oil production.

Highest reduction in heating utility.

Interpreting Simulation Results

  • What constitutes a “good” design?

  • Hard to interpret outcome without evaluating economically

  • EIA and design literature help with evaluation.

Numbers for economics
Numbers for economics

  • Energy Information Agency product and crude prices

  • Peters, Timmerhaus and West utility price


  • Compressed vapor stripping and combined feed preflash with vapor stripping have the most promise for a profitable retrofit.

  • Vapor stripping is good on its own.

  • Applications toward future crude oil.

Invention 4 – Combined 2&3

Feed Preflash

Compressed VS

Invention 5 – Combined 1&2

Feed Preflash

Vapor Stripping