Upgrading Existing FCC Refinery Strategies and Options

In category Industrial News
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The Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) process is a vital component of the refining industry. It is used to convert heavy crude oil into lighter, more valuable products such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. However, as refineries age, the efficiency and reliability of the FCC process can decline, resulting in lower yields, increased emissions, and higher operating costs. Upgrading an existing FCC refinery can help mitigate these issues and improve profitability. We will explore strategies and options for upgrading an FCC refinery.

The Importance of FCC Refinery

An important process in the refinery sector is fluid catalytic cracking (FCC). It is a highly successful and economical way of converting heavy crude oil into lighter and more valuable products such as jet fuel, gasoline and diesel. The FCC process revolutionized the refining sector and is now a standard component in most refineries around the world.

Upgraded FCC refinery
Upgraded FCC refinery

The importance of FCC refineries cannot be overemphasized. They are essential for supplying the world with much-needed fuels and other petrochemicals. Without FCC refineries, it would be difficult for the world to meet the growing demand for energy and gasoline that are essential to driving economic development.

One of the FCC process’ major benefits is its capacity to handle a variety of crude oil feedstocks, including heavy and sour crude. Refineries can modify their feedstocks dependent on market conditions thanks to this flexibility, which is essential for preserving profitability. One of the most economical refining methods available, the FCC process also generates large yields of valuable compounds.

Also, compared to other refining methods, the FCC process has a lesser environmental impact. It is a more environmentally friendly way to address the world’s energy needs because it uses less energy and emits fewer greenhouse gases. To further reduce their environmental impact and adhere to regulations, several refineries are investing in cutting-edge catalysts and technologies.

The FCC procedure provides important technological advantages in addition to its economic and environmental advantages. There is very little downtime needed for maintenance and repairs because it is a continuous, highly efficient operation. For items to meet quality standards and client requirements, the FCC process must also result in high-quality products with few contaminants.

Key Strategies for Upgrading an FCC Refinery

An existing Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) refinery can be upgraded to increase its productivity, dependability, and efficiency. According on its particular needs and objectives, an FCC refinery can be upgraded using a variety of methods and solutions. We’ll then look at some of the most important methods for modernizing an FCC refinery.

Catalyst System Redesign

One of the most important parts of the FCC process is the catalyst system. The FCC process’s efficiency can be considerably increased by upgrading the catalyst system, leading to higher yields and lower operating costs. Modern catalysts can produce more gasoline and diesel while producing less coke and emissions thanks to their increased selectivity and activity.

Boost feedstock adaptability

An FCC refinery’s feedstock flexibility can be improved to lessen its reliance on a specific crude oil feedstock and increase its adaptability to shifting market conditions. Installing a pre-treatment plant that can clean up impurities and upgrade inferior feedstocks, such heavy and sour crude oils, is one option to increase feedstock flexibility.

Improve the process environment

The efficiency and yields of the FCC process can be greatly increased by optimizing process variables like temperature, pressure, and catalyst to oil ratio. Real-time FCC process optimization can increase yields and reduce operating costs. Modern control systems like model-based predictive control and real-time optimization can help.

FCC Refinery with old equipment
FCC Refinery with old equipment

Installing advanced equipment, such as reactor internals, fractionation trays, and heat exchangers, can help improve the FCC process’s efficiency and reliability. Advanced equipment can help reduce pressure drop, increase residence time, and enhance heat transfer, resulting in higher yields and lower operating costs.

Incorporating advanced technologies, such as online analyzers, advanced sensors, and digital twins, can help improve the FCC process’s reliability and performance. Online analyzers and sensors can provide real-time information on catalyst activity, feedstock quality, and product properties, allowing for better process control and optimization. Digital twins can simulate the FCC process’s behavior and predict its performance, allowing for better decision-making and troubleshooting.

Invest in better environmental controls

Environmental controls can be improved to reduce emissions and meet regulatory standards, such as flue gas desulfurization (FGD) systems. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) can be removed from flue gases by advanced FGD systems such wet scrubbers and selective catalytic reduction (SCR), which lessens the environmental impact of the FCC process.

It takes careful planning and analysis of many choices and techniques to upgrade an FCC refinery. The catalyst system should be updated, feedstock flexibility should be increased, process conditions should be optimized, new equipment should be installed, new technologies should be used, and environmental controls should be upgraded, among other things. By putting these tactics into practice, refineries can increase their productivity, dependability, and profitability while also having a less negative impact on the environment.

Options for FCC Refinery Upgrades

As it transforms heavy crude oil into lighter, more valuable products like gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, the Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) procedure is a crucial component of the refining industry. However as refineries get older, the efficacy and dependability of the FCC process can deteriorate, leading to lower yields, higher emissions, and more expensive operation. These problems can be reduced and profitability increased by upgrading an existing FCC refinery. This post will look at a few solutions for modernizing an FCC refinery.

Maintenance of old FCC Refinery equipment
Maintenance of old FCC Refinery equipment

Activator Optimization

The FCC process’ catalyst is at its core. The chemical reactions that transform the heavy crude oil into lighter products are sped up using catalysts. The FCC process’ efficiency can be greatly improved by optimizing the catalyst. Enhancing the catalyst’s performance can also lower emissions and increase yields. Using a more sophisticated kind of catalyst, like a zeolite catalyst, is one possibility for catalyst optimization. Higher activity levels in zeolite catalysts can result in higher yields and fewer emissions.

Equipment Improvements

Equipment upgrades are a further option for modernizing an FCC refinery. Reactors, regenerators, and heat exchangers are only a few of the sophisticated pieces of machinery needed for the FCC process. This machinery may lose efficiency and dependability over time. Increased efficiency and dependability of the equipment might result in increased yields and cheaper operating costs. Installation of new equipment or the retrofitting of old equipment with new technologies are both examples of upgrades.

Integration of Process

The FCC process must be integrated with other processes in the refinery as part of process integration. Energy and resources may be used more effectively as a result of this integration. For instance, the steam produced by the FCC process can be utilized to heat other refinery processes. The creation of higher-value goods like propylene, which is used to make plastics and other materials, is another benefit of process integration.

New equipment in FCC refinery
New equipment in FCC refinery


In order to streamline the FCC procedure, digitalization makes use of cutting-edge technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Better yields and reduced emissions might result from the FCC process being monitored and controlled in real-time via digitalization. It can also aid in locating areas for process optimization and improvement.


Hydrogen is used throughout the hydroprocessing process to clean off contaminants from crude oil. Better yields and reduced emissions can result from hydroprocessing the feedstock for the FCC process. Moreover, hydroprocessing can result in the creation of more valuable goods like diesel and jet fuel.

Upgrading an FCC refinery can help mitigate the challenges associated with an aging refinery. Catalyst optimization, equipment upgrades, process integration, digitalization, and hydroprocessing are all options for upgrading an FCC refinery. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages, and the best option for a particular refinery will depend on various factors, including the refinery’s current state, the available resources, and the desired outcome. It is essential to work with experienced professionals who can assess the refinery’s needs and recommend the best options for upgrading the FCC process. Ruichang as a professional FCC refinery upgrade solution provider can provide you with the best quality service.

Considerations for FCC Refinery Upgrades

Upgrading an existing FCC refinery can be a complex and costly process. Before embarking on such a project, it is important to carefully consider various factors. Here are some important considerations for FCC refinery upgrades.

New upgraded refinery equipment
New upgraded refinery equipment
  • An important factor to consider is the specific goals of the upgrade. Looking to increase production capacity, improve product quality, or reduce emissions? Each of these objectives may require different refinery upgrades and modifications. Before starting the process, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish with your upgrade. 
  • The age and state of the current equipment are additional crucial factors. An older refinery may be more difficult and expensive to upgrade than a newer one. To get the required results, it can be essential to upgrade or replace some equipment. It is crucial to take into account how the upgrade can affect the equipment’s remaining lifespan.
  • Another vital factor is the accessibility of supplies and trained labor. An FCC refinery upgrade frequently calls for particular knowledge and tools. Before starting the job, it’s crucial to make sure that the essential manpower and resources are on hand. It could be necessary to hire outside contractors to handle some project components.
  • Safety is also an important consideration in FCC refinery upgrades. Refinery upgrades may involve handling hazardous materials and processes. It is important to have a comprehensive safety plan to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. This may include training employees and contractors, and implementing security his protocols and procedures.
  • Finally, it is important to consider the financial implications of upgrading FCC refineries. Refinery upgrades can be significant investments costing millions of dollars. It’s important to fully understand the potential costs and benefits of upgrading before making a decision. This may include conducting a cost-benefit analysis and considering various financing options. 

Upgrading an FCC refinery can be a complex and challenging process. It is important to carefully consider various factors before beginning the project, including the specific goals of the upgrade, the age and condition of the existing equipment, the availability of skilled labor and materials, safety considerations, and the financial implications of the upgrade. With careful planning and execution, an FCC refinery upgrade can help improve productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

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