It is well known that refinery-petrochemical integration has the potential to optimize assets and sustain profits during oil demand cycles. For the same reason, it is also an important factor to reduce investment risk in new enterprises. Nevertheless, Brazilian oil refining facilities have never been effectively integrated to petrochemical units due to the chemical industry development model adopted in this country decades ago. However, there are still several integration opportunities that can lead to reduction of chemicals import, supply security and profitability increase.
This paper presents some interesting R&D initiatives related to refining-petrochemical integration, several of which are Brazilian particular issues an others with worldwide application.
Although some Brazilian refineries are able to produce MTBE using isobutylene from the FCC C4 cut, the majority of oil refining facilities in this country sell butenes as LPG. So, the use of butenes to produce chemicals rather than fuels has the potential to increase refineries profitability substantially. At Petrobra's R&D centre, two projects are focusing on this subject: the use of butenes and fatty acids methyl esters to produce long chain linear olefins via metathesis, aiming the production of detergents, and the production of C12 olefinic compounds, from C4 oligomerization, for the formulation of synthetic-based drilling fluid, which can reduce/eliminate expensive chemical imports for Petrobra's oil & gas production area.
Other refinery-petrochemical integration related projects, also being developed by Petrobras and university partnerships, aims propylene production and use, having a worldwide application character. An interesting initiative is the development of a propane/propylene facilitated transport membrane separation module, which can allow a substantial increase in the C3 splitter capacity. Also promising is the development of a high selectivity catalyst system to produce propylene from propane via oxidative dehydrogenation and the use of impure propylene to produce solvents.