Key Project China’s Sinopec Successfully Completes Trial of Crude Oil Steam-Cracking Technology

From Ahlam Rais

The unique crude oil steam-cracking technology has the ability to convert crude oil directly into ethylene, propylene and other chemical products. The successful trail marks the first industrial application of the crude oil steam-cracking technology in China and will pave the way for transforming China's petrochemical industry. The technology will also significantly shorten the production process, lower production costs and reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

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Sinopec successfully completes China’s first industrial application of crude oil steam-cracking technology.
Sinopec successfully completes China’s first industrial application of crude oil steam-cracking technology.
(Source: Sinopec)

Beijing/China – China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) has successfully tested its key project, ‘Technological Development and Industrial Application of Light Crude Oil Cracking into Ethylene,’ this month at Sinopec Tianjin.

The technology converts crude oil directly into ethylene, propylene and other chemical products (crude-to-chemicals) and realizes the first industrial application of crude oil steam-cracking technology in China. The milestone is of great significance to the transformation and upgrading of China's petrochemical industry, also contributing to achieve ‘dual carbon’ goals.

The crude oil steam-cracking technology is one of the ‘crude-to-chemicals’ solutions which ‘skips’ the traditional crude oil refining process to directly convert crude oil into valuable chemical products like ethylene and propylene – analogous to making bread directly with wheat and eliminating the flour grinding process. This approach will greatly shorten the production process, lower production costs and significantly reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

The technology was developed and engineered by Sinopec's Beijing Research Institute of Chemical Industry and Sinopec Engineering Group (SEG) and the industrial testing was carried out at Sinopec Tianjin. It has applied for 45 Chinese patents for invention and one international patent for invention.

At present, ExxonMobil and Sinopec are the only two companies to successfully achieve industrial application of crude oil steam-cracking technology worldwide. It's estimated that for every 1 million tons of crude oil processed by this technology, nearly 500,000 tons of chemical products can be produced, 400,000 tons of which are high-value products such as ethylene, propylene, light aromatics and hydrogen. Overall, Sinopec's technology has reached an internationally-advanced level and presents huge economic value and potential.

A basic raw material of chemical products, ethylene is coined the ‘mother of the petrochemical industry,’ and is one of the key benchmarks to measure the development level of a country's petrochemical industry. As people's living standards continues to improve, the global demand for chemical products is also growing, and as basic raw materials, the demand for ethylene and propylene has also increased accordingly. In general, the raw materials needed for producing ethylene and propylene must go through the crude oil refining process at the refineries, the production process of which is not only longer, but also only 30 percent of the crude oil is used to produce the chemical raw materials.

Sinopec is preparing to carry out the development and engineering design of packaged technology for the production of ethylene by steam-cracking 1 million tons of crude oil at its Tahe company in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, building an industrial demonstration plant for the direct production of chemicals from crude oil and establishing a new model for the transformation and development of China's petrochemical industry.

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