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Refinery Operations

The Keys to Maximizing Diesel Production

| Author / Editor: Satyendra Kumar Singh / Dominik Stephan

Overall diesel yield from a refinery can be maximized by installing a hydro- cracker unit and a coker unit in addition to CDU and VDU, plus a hydrotreating unit.
Overall diesel yield from a refinery can be maximized by installing a hydro- cracker unit and a coker unit in addition to CDU and VDU, plus a hydrotreating unit. (Source: © Zffoto/Fotolia.com)

Routes for diesel production – Over the period 2015–2040, the global demand for diesel is likely to grow at a compounded annual rate of 1.0 per cent. Therefore, maximization of diesel yield remains the major objective of petroleum refiners. Read on to find out the various routes through which diesel can be produced in a refinery...

Diesel is a key product of a petroleum refinery which accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the road transportation sector’s fuel emand globally. This is likely to increase to 45 per cent by 2040 according to World Oil Outlook 2015 published by Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). It is the most demanded product among all the petroleum products globally and accounts for about 30 per cent of the global demand for petroleum products.

Its demand is expected to rise in the future at a rate higher than that of other petro products except jet fuel/kerosene. Over the period 2015–2040, its global demand is likely to grow at a compounded annual rate of 1.0 per cent, slightly lower than 1.2 per cent for jet fuel/kerosene but significantly higher than 0.5 per cent for gasoline.

Therefore, maximization of diesel yield remains the major objective of petroleum refiners. Diesel can be produced in a refinery through various routes (figure 1). The processes associated with the various routes for diesel production are described in the following paragraphs.

Crude Distillation

Crude Distillation Unit (CDU) is the most basic unit of a refining process. Here, crude is separated into various products such as light gases, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), naphtha, kerosene, diesel and residue through a process known as fractionation or distillation. Diesel produced from CDU is known as straight-run diesel.

Straight-run diesel may require further treatment in diesel hydrotreating unit or diesel hydrodesulfurization unit to reduce the sulfur level to the specified limit as per regulatory requirements. The typical yield of diesel from CDU is 15–20 per cent depending upon the nature of the crude.

Hydrocracking

Hydrocracking is a catalytic process in which heavier hydrocarbons are converted to lighter hydrocarbons such as light gases, LPG, naphtha, kerosene and diesel. Some portion of the feed remains unconverted. Hydrocracking can be of three types viz once through, single stage with recycle and two stage. The yield of unconverted oil is least (almost zero) in the two stage process and highest in the once through process. Or, conversion is highest (almost 100 per cent) in two-stage process and lowest in the once through process (typically approximately 60 per cent).

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