The rapid expansion of delayed coking capacity is redefining the world market for petroleum coke. Strong demand from its long-established user base (aluminium and steel manufacturing) is projected to result in a tight supply of low-sulphur coke. By contrast, the demand growth of high-sulphur coke will be increasingly limited as traditional consumers, such as cement factories and power plants. face ever stricter environmental protection requirements.

Against this backdrop of low-quality coke surplus, refiners processing heavier and sourer crudes struggle to handle these growing, carbon-intensive piles and wonder: Is petroleum coke an asset or a liability?

Even in this buyer's market, there is still a myriad of options available to unlock the pet coke value, each one with wide-ranging implications. Some developing countries, for example, favor circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boilers to absorb the excess coke, while others are exploring innovative routes such as hydromethanation.

Moving up the agenda, gasification opens up avenues for endless combinations of products: power in integrated gasification combined cycles (IGCC), steam, hydrogen, chemicals, hydrocarbons (via Fischer-Tropsch) and synthetic natural gas (SNG). The organisations that will gain the most from their coke will be those who address two strategic challenges:

  • Minimising the capital costs, environmental impact and reliability issues that impact coke-upgrading technologies.

  • Maximising the internal and external value of the coke by exploiting synergies with other refinery operations

This paper explores how to overcome the hurdles associated with coking operations in order to extract value from the most costly equipment and ensure optimum integration with process units and utilities. It will also describe how the reliability, efficiency, and profitability of the coke-upgrading refinery can be maximised.

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