Steven C Gimre, Managing Director - UOP India Pvt Ltd, speaks on the new technological solutions that his company is working on and their applicability for the Indian market.
Honeywell´s UOP has completed 100 years in the petroleum refinery sector. Share with us UOP's story in India and globally, and the company's role in India's oil and gas sector.
At UOP, we are very excited about achieving this extremely significant milestone. Across the world, we have been celebrating the completion of 100 successful years of the UOP business. We are proud of our history, particularly in oil refining and petrochemicals, where we have had the most significant impact.
In many ways, UOP´s history is synonymous with the history of the oil and gas industry itself. We started our journey in Chicago, IL, on June 17, 1914, with an innovation that would change the refining industry at that time- the commercialization of the Jesse Adams Dubbs´ thermal cracking process, the first conversion technology for upgrading oil. The Dubbs Process quadrupled the yield of gasoline from crude oil at the moment mass production was introduced to automobile manufacturing. It ensured that tens of millions of people would have access to the fuels that allowed them to travel wherever and whenever they wanted. This was a revolution that changed society. UOP´s technologies were in demand wherever there was oil û in Japan, India, Europe, the United States. From then on, innovation and engineering have been at the forefront of UOP.
Soon after, we made a foray into petroch¡emicals, where we developed technologies that enabled our customers in the production of polyesters for everyday use, out of oil. We focused on increasing the yield of the product being derived from an oil barrel. This we did through our Platforming technology and FCC technologies that create more value with the same barrel. The most recent addition to these technologies is Uniflex, which has broad applications even in India.
We have shared a fascinating legacy with India´s refining industry since its very inception. UOP licensed the Dubbs thermal cracking process to produce gasoline at India´s first refinery - the Digboi refinery in Assam (1928-1931), currently operated by Indian Oil Corporation. The technology ran from the 30s through the mid-90s, when it was finally shut down as part of a refinery modernisation project- a testament to our long term vision and commitment to customers.
Today in India, more than 50 per cent of the crude oil, more than 70 per cent of the gasoline (petrol), and more than 85 per cent of the country´s biodegradable detergents are produced using UOP technologies. We continue to closely work with most refineries and petrochemical companies in India to better understand how our technologies can be leveraged in the region and help ensure our constant innovation continues to benefit our customer´s changing needs. For example, UOP was the managing licensor of one of the largest refineries in the world, the Reliance Jamnagar facility, and we continue to partner with major refineries in the public and private sectors.
The Honeywell India Technology Center at Gurgaon has been supporting Honeywell UOP's work in developing and licensing process technologies used in refining and the production of petrochemicals and renewable fuels. Give us more details about this centre.
India is an important market in terms of growth, where we continue our localisation strategy across the whole value chain; from engineering and technology development to integrated supply chain and manufacturing. The Honeywell India Technology Center (HITC) launched in 2012 at an initial investment of $34 million, and it was another step in the company´s continuous efforts to expand UOP´s footprint in the region.
HITC is a state-of-the-art centre creating cutting-edge technologies to address issues relating to energy security, energy efficiency, fuel quality and energy sector profitability for the region. The centre is dedicated to developing and accelerating new technologies for use around the world, in key areas such as oil refining and petrochemical processes; high moisture-barrier packaging for the pharmaceutical industry; high-performance blowing agents for refrigeration applications; processing additives for asphalt; and nylon and plastics production. HITC uses sophisticated, world-class equipment to support its customer's changing requirements, and provide materials and technologies that are better for the environment and make life more comfortable and energy-efficient.
HITC presently employs more than 100 workers, whose backgrounds range from engineers and technologists, chemists and safety professionals, to diploma-level workers supporting the site´s operations. Its five work centres contain advanced computer simulation and modeling resources. HITC also features pilot plants for developing and demonstrating refining and petrochemical process technology by UOP, as well as product and application development for the Fluorine Products, Specialty Products, and Resins and Chemicals verticals within the Performance Materials and Technologies (PMT) business group.
Your company has said that its Uniflex refining process can help India save up to $9 billion worth of crude. Can you elaborate?
Traditionally, not every barrel of crude ends up as fuel. All over the world, petroleum refiners want to add value from residual fuel oil, also called the ´bottom-of-the-barrel.´ For many refiners, this represents the last fraction of crude oil that has not been upgraded to more useful products, so the right technology is important to maximise its value. Higher crude prices, coupled with increasing demand, has meant that many countries including India end up spending a significant share of their budget on crude imports. Refiners and countries are thus faced with the challenge of maximising productive output from every barrel of expensive imported crude. With UOP´s history and years of experience in the refining industry, we introduced the UOP Uniflex Process. Uniflex is a high conversion technology, that processes low-quality residue streams, such as vacuum residue, to make very high-quality distillate products.
Uniflex technology offers significant advantages compared with alternatives. It allows refiners to minimise production of fuel oils, which are considered low value and maximise production of useful fuels. From a refiner´s perspective, this translates to increased yields or returns per barrel of crude, which can either mean higher revenues or lower costs. In addition, this process can readily integrate into existing facilities thus cutting down on capex.
This technology has been developed based on years of extensive trials and has been successfully licensed. If deployed across all refineries in India today, Uniflex technology could generate 260,000 additional bbls/day of transportation fuel - effectively adding one medium size refinery capacity without the capex investments and save approximately $9 billion in crude imports costs annually.
The recently-introduced UOP XCeed bioreactor system will help manufacturing industries meet contaminant removal specifications for wastewater discharge or reuse. Please give us more details about this project.
Globally, norms and regulations for wastewater treatment standards have been getting stricter with increasing focus on environmental issues. The market requires an innovative process that will help manufacturers and industries meet these stringent policies in a reliable and cost-effective manner. Honeywell´s UOP XCeed bioreactor system, based on Honeywell´s immobilised cell bioreactor technology, helps industrial, manufacturing, and groundwater remediation facilities meet contaminant removal specifications for wastewater discharge or reuse. Our commercial launch of this technology builds on UOP´s experience associated with more than 50 successful installations and 100 years of experience, purifying various process streams to create superior contaminant removal solutions.
The XCeed bioreactor system has been proven reliable and cost-effective in the food and beverage industry, chemical and textile manufacturing, groundwater remediation, and refinery and petrochemical applications worldwide.
The integrated treatment process can be delivered as a modular system and incorporates mixed-media support for immobilised bio-catalysts, or microbes. A sophisticated biological ecosystem enables longer biomass retention time and results in highly efficient biological oxygen demand (BOD) removal with low sludge production. The system has a relatively simple mechanical design that minimizes energy consumption and required operator attention.
Which of UOP´s technologies have been globally successful? Is there traction for this technology in India?
In India, as in the rest of the world, UOP processes and technologies chosen by our customers have enabled our modern way of life, delivering a standard of living that couldn´t have been imagined a hundred years ago. Besides the Uniflex technology discussed above, UOP´s methanol-to-olefins (MTO) technology can also act as a potential game changer for India´s oil and gas sector.
Coal continues to be India´s primary energy source. Unlike oil, this natural resource is far from scanty. India's coal reserves, of more than 250 billion tonnes, are amongst the largest in the world. There is a lot that India could do with the natural resource. Amongst various high energy consuming sectors, the petrochemicals industry features fairly high in the value chain. Olefin manufacturing, for instance, could take on a new direction in feedstock utilization, with an innovative solution. MTO allows regions that are rich in coal or natural gas to cost-effectively and efficiently convert those resources into high yields of valuable petrochemicals to meet growing world demand. MTO is a technology which can potentially open new, economical routes to produce light olefins from low cost feedstocks for India.
Amongst the largest volume petrochemicals in the world, olefins are building blocks for everything from packaging materials, home ware, piping and insulation, to synthetic rubbers and antifreeze equipment. UOP now has a revolutionary solution that produces olefins more economically than many traditional sources.
China´s Wison (Nanjing) Clean Energy Company, for example, was the first commercial-scale facility to use the MTO process technology. It started operations in September 2013 and successfully produces more than 360 million pounds of light olefins, meeting both quality and quantity expectations for light olefins. The Wison facility uses UOP´s Advanced MTO process, which combines the UOP/Hydro MTO process and the Total/UOP Olefin Cracking process, to significantly increase yields and feedstock efficiency. The process converts methanol, which can be derived from low-cost raw materials such as coal or natural gas, into ethylene and propylene. MTO also offers flexibility in the ratio of propylene to ethylene produced, so operators can adjust plant operations to most effectively address market demands.
In most regions of the world, either methane or coal is readily available at prices that make UOP´s advanced MTO process a better economic choice than naphtha cracking. Investment in MTO can be staged by first constructing and operating the MTO unit based on purchased methanol and then later constructing the gasification and methanol synthesis sections. Likewise, existing methanol producers can use MTO to integrate downstream and move into the light olefins market.
To date, UOP has licensed six MTO units, the first being the Wison plant. All of these units are located in China and are based on either purchased methanol or coal. In total, more than 10 million tpy of combined ethlyene plus propylene production capacity from MTO technologies is planned to come on-stream in China by 2015. For India, MTO can help the country meet its growing demand for olefins by using methanol derived from cheaper and more abundant coal, maximizing yields of high-value petrochemicals and reducing operating costs. On the feedstock end, India has plentiful coal reserves, while the country´s natural gas and oil reserves are limited. Of India's fossil fuel reserves, 93% is coal, with crude oil and natural gas representing only 3% and 4%, respectively. To utilize coal as a petrochemical feedstock, the first step is gasification of coal to synthesis gas. By using MTO technology, this synthesis gas can be converted into petrochemicals. This approach can help channel valuable crude oil imports toward fuels while supporting petrochemicals growth in India.
Regional demand, regional availability and cost of key raw materials are some of the most important factors shaping the development of petrochemical markets. Clearly, for regions with vast resources of coal such as India, MTO could provide long-term raw material security. The UOP/Hydro MTO process provides an economically-attractive route to convert cost-advantaged raw materials such as coal to high value-added olefins. MTO could work here as a potential game changer.
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