Impact of Light Tight Oils on Distillate Hydrotreater Operation | AIChE

Impact of Light Tight Oils on Distillate Hydrotreater Operation


Conference Presentation

Conference Type

AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety

Presentation Date

March 29, 2017


30 minutes



Light Tight Oil (LTO, also known as Shale Oil) formations are providing a new crude source to North America and soon to the world, with the recent construction of condensate splitters in the US Gulf Coast and lifting of the crude export ban by the U.S. government in late 2015. Agreements between U.S and Mexico have been announced that will allow crude swaps, thereby sending LTO into refineries in Mexico. Other countries in the region are also examining the potentials of LTO imports. The economic advantages of processing LTO crudes are the low crude cost relative to world benchmark crudes and higher quality compared to other available crudes.

The production and processing of LTO crudes is relatively new (< 5 years), whereas Asia Pacific conventional crudes that have similar qualities (when compared to LTO crudes) have been in production and refined for many years. In addition, West African crudes have been displaced from U.S. refiners and replaced with LTO crudes. Therefore, a comparison of LTO, Asian Pacific, and West African crude distillate qualities presents a possible mechanism to provide operating and product impact insight for hydrotreaters in LTO processing facilities. A US conventional crude was also selected and serves as a marker crude.

This presentation provides some high level impacts of LTO processing on a facility, and then uses a kinetic model to highlight the unit specific impacts that can occur. First, a feedstock quality comparison is performed to understand the key differences of the kerosene and diesel fractions of LTOs. Then, a kinetic model is used to simulate how a typical hydrotreating catalyst load responds to the different feedstocks. Finally, cold flow property management and other potential operating concerns are discussed, including possible mitigation options. When properly managed, LTOs provide a unique opportunity for refiners to supplement their existing crude basket.


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