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In 2003, Citgo Asphalt Refining Co.’s ciently are CARCO’s primary operating
(CARCO) Savannah, Ga., refinery com- objectives.
pleted a revamp of its No. 1 crude unit Before the revamp, the crude unit
that increased asphalt yield by 2% on produced overhead gas, naphtha, light
whole crude, depending on asphalt gas oil (LGO), middle gas oil (MGO),
grade produced. Asphalt is the main heavy gas oil (HGO), and asphalt (Fig.
product with all other products sold as 1).
refinery intermediate feedstocks. HGO was produced so that the as-
Since the revamp, the unit charge phalt would meet its specification; it
rate has exceeded design rates, energy was not a saleable product. The HGO
consumption is lower, less cracked gas was recycled to the feed when CARCO
is produced, and operating stability has produced particular as-
improved greatly. Before the revamp the phalt grades (Fig. 1); it
unit had little flexibility, was difficult to
control, and operated with several con-
therefore consumed
unit capacity, raised en- Revamp improves asphalt
Before the revamp, CARCO deter-
mined that the crude column had to be
ergy consumption, and
forced the unit to oper-
ate at higher heater
yield in Georgia refinery
replaced because it had reached the end outlet temperatures
of its useful life. Rather than simply re- when producing a particular asphalt
place the vessel in-kind, CARCO con- grade.
ducted a study to determine if a practi- Overhead receiver gas was generated
cal, cost-effective unit revamp could in- from the small amount of light ends in Daryl Hanson
Tony Barletta
crease profitability while minimizing the crude, thermal cracking in the Process Consulting Services Inc.
incremental investment. heater, and cracking in the crude col- Houston
umn’s bottom. Eliminating the HGO
Background product and minimizing cracked gas Joe Johnson
CARCO’s Savannah refinery makes production from the heater and crude Bruce Dahm
asphalt from 10.4° API Boscan crude. column would improve unit econom- Citgo Asphalt Refining Co.
Depending on market demand, several ics. Savannah, Ga.
asphalt grades are produced;
Do not delete this text
however, performance grade
(PG) 67-22 is the main prod- SPECIAL
Because each grade has
several specifications for pene-
tration, viscosity, ductility,
Report Refining Report
loss-on-heat, and others that
must be met concurrently, it is
a challenge to produce several
grades of asphalt directly from
the atmospheric crude col-
umn. In addition to using var-
ious additives, many refineries
must operate both atmospher-
ic and vacuum columns to
meet asphalt product specifi-
The extra-heavy Boscan
crude yields about 75-80 vol % asphalt
depending on which performance Meeting asphalt specifications
grade is being produced. Because Performance-grade asphalt must
Boscan has an extremely high sulfur meet several specifications, which are
content, its other products have rela- interdependent. When one is adjusted
tively low values compared to similar others will change. If the loss-on-heat
boiling-range material from compara- is high, for example, then the light
ble lower sulfur crudes. Maximizing the front-end boiling range material must
product basket value safely and effi- be reduced while maintaining the vis-

Reprinted with revisions to format, from the March 7, 2005 edition of OIL & GAS JOURNAL
Copyright 2005 by PennWell Corporation
an operating vari-
able had little in-
fluence on the
Gas specification or
worse, resulted in
MGO a counterintuitive
response. When
Cooling constraints were
water LGO reached, finding
the specific com-
bination of vari-
column ables that met all
specifications was
a trial-and-error
process. Opera-
tions personnel
learned to operate
the unit, over time
HGO recycle heater and through expe-
rience, to meet all
Asphalt the specifications.
HGO to
When process
or equipment lim-
its are reached, it
may be impossible
to predict the in-
fluence of operat-
MGO PAR- ing changes on
product product quality.

Variables that
499 would not nor-
Pass 1 mally influence
Crude product specifica-
tank ∆P=3 psi
Pass 2
FI tions become a
major factor.
FI 705 Increases in
60% heater crude charge rate,
∆P=30 psi for example, in-
crease the amount
∆P=35 psi 730
of entrainment
680 from the flash
= Temperature, °F. zone into the HGO
product. The yield
of HGO product
needed to meet a
cosity or penetration specification. phalt fractionation section. Consequent- given grade of asphalt specification did
Altering a single variable, however, ly, adjusting one asphalt property typi- not vary as a percentage of crude
such as stripping steam or heater outlet cally forces several operating variable charge. It varied with charge rate based
temperature will not remove light ma- changes. on the amount of entrainment, as well
terials only. Although these variables Before the revamp, the No. 1 crude as other operating variables.
will reduce the loss-on-heat, they also unit had a limited number of variables Test run data showed HGO product
increase viscosity and reduce penetra- to adjust. Operating changes that affect- contained 60-80 vol % asphalt-boiling-
tion, causing the asphalt to be off-spec- ed asphalt properties were heater outlet range material; however, predicting the
ification. temperature, stripping steam rate, frac- quantity of entrainment at different
Decreasing percent loss-on-heat re- tionation, MGO and HGO product feed rates was impossible. Although op-
quires more stripping steam, possibly yields, and flash-zone pressure. erating personnel learned how to run
higher heater outlet temperature, and But when the process and equip- the unit within its particular con-
better fractionation from the MGO-as- ment limits were reached, changes in straints, no process or equipment mod-
Refining Report

rates, heater outlet

temperatures, and
∆P variable,
MGO PAR- dependent on
different MGO and
product water content
HGO product
yields. Further-
more, the process
flow schemes of
Crude the two units were
Two Charge Without test
phase heater
FI run data—includ-
ing field-measured
pressures and tem-
peratures, and
Water content
∆P depends
nonroutine stream
varies 0.3-1.8 vol %
on water content laboratory analyses
Water vaporizes as
= Pressure, psig
such as high-tem-
pressure decreases and perature simulated
temperature increases
distillations—it is
impossible to
identify root-cause problems and find
opportunities to increase revenue.
499 After analyzing all data and calibrat-
Pass 1
ing process and equipment models, we
Pass 2 found that charge hydraulics, column
Low oil-film temperature, heat removal, asphalt product cooling,
486 low oil residence time crude oil water vaporization, and fired
heater thermal cracking were all signifi-
cant bottlenecks.
Low temperature,
high flow Laboratory testing showed that
Boscan cracked at relatively low tem-
High oil-film temperature, Pass 1 720 perature in the ASTM D5236 pot still
high oil residence time test. This test showed that cracking (gas
Pass 2 production) increased significantly
when oil temperature increased by only
730 30° F.
= Temperature, °F. High temperature, Although quantitative cracking data
low flow
was not a direct match to the operating
data, it showed qualitatively that the
unit would produce more cracked gas
el could have predicted the specific op- like high entrainment, poor stripping, at lower oil-film temperatures inside
erating point needed to meet asphalt or high cracked-gas production. Before the heater tubes than with other extra-
specifications. It is possible to measure completing design work, the revamp heavy crudes. In a rigorous model of
entrainment, but there are no accurate engineer must be able to predict the the charge heater, therefore, oil-film
means of predicting the quantity when outcome of an operating change such temperature differences of only 30° F.
changing other variables. as raising heater outlet temperature. between heater passes were significant.
Before successfully revamping a re- If problems such as poor stripping- A review of historical data was need-
finery unit, one must fully understand section efficiency are not identified, ed because the water content in Boscan
existing process flow scheme limits and model predictions will not match actu- cargo shipments varied from 0.3 to 1.8
equipment constraints. Because models al unit performance, which will result vol %. Water content variability could
make assumptions that may not reflect in an off-spec asphalt product. have contributed significantly to crude
reality, these tools can be unreliable and hydraulic limitations.
should not be the sole basis for a re- Revamp, finding opportunities A cost-effective solution would re-
vamp. Models must be calibrated with CARCO conducted test runs on the sult only after all significant process
accurate data to ensure that the results No. 1 and No. 2 crude units while pro- flow scheme and equipment limits
represent true performance. ducing two different grades of asphalt. were identified. Although simply ad-
A comprehensive test run is manda- To meet the asphalt specifications, each justing the operating variables resulted
tory to discover real-world problems unit had to operate at different feed in improved unit performance in some



MGO 12
LGO Cooling
water 14
Cooling Cooling 15
water water Crude FRC 16 Subcooled
Crude Atmospheric LC
MGO PAR- column
FI product Internal reflux
not constant
Very little
residence time
to control MGO
product draw
Subcooled reflux

Crude LC
Feed from HGO
charge heater

Low efficiency

parallel circuits affected crude capacity, energy efficien-

was not split even- cy, and heater outlet temperature. Be-
ly. HGO, before cause the HGO contained up to 80%
Quench being sent to stor- entrainment, recycling it actually made
No quench age, exchanged the feed heavier in some operating
Crude distribution heat against crude modes. Heavier feeds are more difficult
in one of the par- to vaporize, thus the heater outlet tem-
allel passes and the perature was higher due to the HGO
MGO pumparound recycle.
(PAR)-product in
instances, CARCO’s basic process flow the other pass. Crude hydraulics, preheat
scheme and equipment design had to Because crude feed is a heat sink for Before the revamp, crude hydraulics
be modified to consistently improve PAR and product streams, parallel trains and preheat were major bottlenecks.
unit performance. occasionally have unbalanced flow to During the test run a complete pressure
meet exchanger service duties. When survey was conducted, from the charge
Prerevamp process flow producing various asphalt grades, the pumps to downstream of the heater
scheme yield of MGO and HGO varied as well pass valves, to better understand hy-
The existing unit’s design limited its as the asphalt rate. Crude flow through draulic bottlenecks.
operating flexibility. For example, the the two parallel passes was therefore Fig. 2 shows that one of the two par-
equipment design required an HGO adjusted so that HGO product and allel passes was limiting the crude
product so that the asphalt product MGO PAR-product cooling needs were charge rate. One of the heater pass
would meet specifications. But produc- met. valves was fully open with little pres-
ing HGO had a major effect on crude These flow imbalances influenced sure drop; the other valve had a pres-
hydraulics, preheat operability, and crude charge hydraulics, water vapor- sure drop of more than 35 psi.
heater performance. ization, and charge heater thermal Crude flow through the limiting
The No. 1 crude unit had two paral- cracking because the passes did not re- pass was greater than the other pass.
lel crude trains (Fig. 2). During the test combine before the heater. Additionally, crude preheat temperature
run, the crude flow rate through the Producing and recycling HGO also was 13-20° F. colder in the pass with
Refining Report

the HGO product,

more crude oil
was preferentially
routed through
meter this circuit. And
Bypassed flow meter, FI
while this in-
eliminated ∆P creased heat re-
Normally moval from the
MGO PAR-product
tank exchangers, it also
caused this circuit
Charge to limit crude
FI Asphalt Eliminate heater
product charge.
Normally Normally meter
closed closed Once the con-
trol valve was
wide open, no
Flow split Single-phase
more crude could
exactly 50%
meter be processed. Be-
cause the asphalt
product rundown
temperature was
also an important
variable, asphalt
Asphalt flow was unevenly
FI product
split between the
two parallel cir-
Crude cuits. Producing
HGO therefore af-
Charge fected the asphalt
MGO PAR- heater product rundown
FI product 710
which was gov-
erned by tank op-
710 erating tempera-
520 ture requirements.
= Temperature, °F. Asphalt
Crude water
Periodically, the
pressure drop
the lower flow rate. The temperature was higher, which resulted in a higher through the preheat train increased
differential varied with the yield of MGO PAR-product duty. When softer dramatically for no apparent reason,
HGO and the flow split to control as- asphalt was made, less vaporization oc- which forced operations to lower the
phalt rundown temperature. curred and MGO PAR-product duty was crude charge rate. During the perform-
Before the revamp, a screw pump lower. ance test, the average water content in
fed crude through the two parallel heat Because the amount of heat available the Boscan crude was 0.7 vol %.
exchanger trains. One train heated the for crude preheat from the MGO PAR- Table 1 shows that the crude water
crude first with MGO PAR-product product was always much higher than content varied 0.3-1.8 vol %. More wa-
then with asphalt product. The other ter lowers unit capacity because it
used heat from the HGO product then changes the pressure profile of the pre-
asphalt product.
CRUDE BS&W Table 1
heat train. Every 0.25 vol % increase in
The pass flow-control valves and –––––––––– BS&W –––––––––– water content lowers unit capacity by
Average ±
metering were downstream of the as- standard 2-3%; therefore, when water increased
phalt exchangers. Crude flow rates were Period vol % Range, % from 0.3 to 1.8 vol %, the charge rate
adjusted so that the individual ex- 1 0.60 ±0.18 0.4-1.3
was reduced about 12-18%.
changer duties were maintained within 2 0.68 ±0.28 0.3-1.3 Crude water content influences
the system’s limits. For low-penetration 3 0.69 ±0.16 0.5-1.1 crude hydraulics because at higher
4 0.62 ±0.15 1.1-1.8
asphalt, the crude column vaporization temperatures and lower pressures, wa-
ter vaporizes and increases Atmospheric column
the pressure drop. Because R EVAMPED TOWER LAYOUT Fig. 9
CARCO’s existing process
the water content was vari- flow scheme (Fig. 5) and
able and unpredictable, so too Gas equipment design both had
was the system pressure drop. areas that needed improve-
CARCO’s crude charge system ment.
pressure drop, therefore, was 1
The process flow scheme
highly dependent on the included a total LGO product
crude water content (Fig. 3). 3
Water draw
draw above the MGO PAR;
Because screw pumps were 4 therefore, a higher charge-
used to feed crude, reducing heater duty or stripping-
the pressure controller spill- FI steam rate increased MGO
back until the relief valves in Cooling 12 PAR duty at a constant LGO
front of the first exchanger MGO
product yield. This allowed
became limiting increased the 14 more reflux to the MGO-as-
pressure at the first exchang- Crude
15 phalt fractionation section or
er’s inlet. When the limiting 16 a greater MGO yield.
pressure was reached, the 17 The system was difficult
crude charge rate had to be to control because the MGO
reduced. draw sump had a short resi-
Water also affected the dence time (Fig. 6). Any op-
crude heater’s operation. The erating disturbances, there-
residence time in the crude FI More efficient fore, such as changing crude
MGO fractionation
charge heater decreased as the Hot charge tanks, water content,
water content increased. Be- or grades of asphalt would
cause Boscan crude begins to Eliminated upset the unit.
HGO product Charge heater
crack at a relatively low tem- MGO from the column
perature, the shorter resi- exchanged heat with crude
dence time decreased thermal and cooling water. This
cracking and gas production. stream then split into MGO
Furthermore, more water PAR-product and subcooled
decreased the flash-zone oil reflux to the MGO-HGO
partial pressure, which in- Stripping steam fractionation section. When
creased vaporization. As the Quench the MGO product rate
crude water content in- Uniform temperature changed, the operator had to
resulting from
creased, therefore, the heater distributed quench
vary fractionation section re-
outlet temperature could be Asphalt flux and the HGO product
reduced for the same amount rate to control the asphalt
of flash-zone vaporization. product specification.
Poor fractionation be-
Charge heater, time. If the oil film temperature and oil tween MGO and HGO significantly in-
thermal cracking residence time increase, so does the creased the asphalt product loss-on-
Crude fired heater performance de- rate of thermal cracking. Because the heat. Because Boscan crude is heavy
termined the rate of thermal cracking, two heater passes had different flow and difficult to vaporize, the MGO-
which affected thin-film oven test rates, the rate of cracking was different. HGO fractionation section reflux rate
properties as well as the rate of gas and Fig. 4 shows that one pass had a was low, which resulted in low tray-
coke formation. Additionally, CARCO’s lower oil mass velocity and higher resi- weir loadings that reduced tray efficien-
two heater passes operated at different dence time. Because the produced HGO cy.
conditions due to the crude flow rate had to be cooled, the crude heater op- Low stripping-section efficiency fur-
imbalances and preheat train differ- eration and asphalt properties were ad- ther reduced MGO-HGO section reflux
ences. versely affected by crude flow rate im- because the charge heater operated at
The train with the MGO PAR-prod- balances. Balancing the pass flow rates maximum outlet temperature. Because
uct exchanger had a 25° F. lower and heater outlet temperatures would increasing further the heater outlet
heater-pass outlet temperature and reduce thermal cracking and improve temperature would degrade asphalt
higher oil flow rate than the one with asphalt properties. properties due to thermal cracking,
the HGO product exchanger. CARCO had to reduce the feed rate to
Thermal cracking is a function of meet asphalt product specifications; the
the oil film temperature and residence heater outlet temperature and stripping
Refining Report

pass equalized the heater pass outlet

temperatures (Fig. 8).

Crude column replacement

The crude column needed replacing
because the vessel had reached the end
of its useful life.
Fig. 9 shows the tower and process
changes. Due to process flow scheme
changes and eliminating HGO produc-
tion, the MGO-asphalt fractionation
was converted to hot reflux from sub-
cooled. The fractionation trays were re-
placed with packing.
Changing from a subcooled liquid
to a bubble-point liquid reflux simpli-
This efficient, low-fouling tray was used in the revamped stripping section (Fig. 10). fied the tower heat-balance control. The
revamp increased stripping section effi-
steam rate were maximized. phase flow that was a result of water ciency, reduced flash-zone entrainment,
HGO was either sent to tankage or vaporization. Existing flowmeters were and maximized MGO-asphalt fractiona-
recycled to feed depending on the relocated at the front of each train to tion section efficiency. The new strip-
grade of asphalt produced. It was not a ensure accurate flow measurements. ping section doubled efficiency by
saleable product, however, due to con- Other process flow modifications in- adding more, higher-efficiency trays.
taminants (as much as 80%) from cluded adding a fourth crude-asphalt CARCO increased the asphalt strip-
flash-zone entrainment. exchanger to each of the crude trains ping steam rate to the condenser limit
Before the revamp, asphalt-stripping to reduce asphalt rundown tempera- to further improve stripping. These
efficiency was not optimized. CARCO’s ture. The additional MGO PAR-product changes helped increase asphalt yield
stripping section used full-column di- and asphalt exchangers allowed the on whole crude.
ameter trays, which have inherently crude preheat temperature to increase Maximizing stripping section effi-
low efficiencies. more than 20° F., which reduced ener- ciency was an essential factor to meet
gy consumption and lowered heater fir- asphalt specifications without having to
Revamp process flow scheme ing per barrel of feed. produce HGO. Reducing the active area
To maximize asphalt production, the Balancing crude flow rate to each to a minimum improved vapor-liquid
process flow scheme and contacting and maximized
some of the major equip- tray efficiency.
ment needed revamping. The R EVAMP REDUCES H2S, CRACKED GAS PRODUCTION Fig. 11
The stripping trays used
unit had to stop producing Gas (less
sieve holes and had no stag-
HGO to maximize asphalt gas and H2S) nant areas on the tray deck
production, increase charge or downcomers. The trays
rate, and balance the heat in- had a rectangular design,
put to crude. Fractionating high weir loading, low weir
the HGO into either MGO or Gas produced
height, special weir design,
asphalt maximized asphalt from heater high downcomer clearance,
yield. is reduced and downcomers designed
Balancing the crude split with a minimum cross-sec-
flows eliminated hydraulic tional area. These custom de-
constraints and reduced ther- sign features allowed maxi-
mal cracking in the heater. temperature mum tray efficiency while
The HGO product service reduced Charge Lower minimizing fouling tenden-
heater temperature
was converted to an MGO cies.
PAR-product service so that Uniform
Each tray open area (hole)
each pass had the same crude temperature was optimized to reflect the
preheat. Asphalt
changes in the vapor rate
Fig. 7 shows some of the H2S in product reduced that occurred across the
modifications. Before the re- through more uniform quench stripping section. Fig. 10
and lower heater outlet
vamp, the heater pass shows the stripping trays
flowmeters were inaccurate used.
because they measured two- Improved stripping-sec-
PROCESSING Refining Report

tion performance lowered the heater jority of recoverable heat came from creased 25° F. and energy consumption
outlet temperature by raising the this stream with remaining heat recov- was lowered.
amount of oil vaporized in the strip- ery from the additional MGO PAR- During start-up, the unit reached
ping section. High-efficiency stripping product exchanger. Heater outlet tem- production rate and product specifica-
lowered the oil partial pressure, which perature decreased because stripping- tions much faster than in the past. In
vaporized the front-end of the flash- section efficiency and stripping-steam addition, due to improved tower con-
zone liquid. These stripped hydrocar- rate were both increased. trollability, asphalt specifications are
bons contained a large amount of the now achieved much faster when
light material that affected the loss-on- Revamp results changes are required.
heat. After the revamp, the asphalt yield The project met all processing objec-
Stripping also generated more flash- on whole crude increased by 2 vol % tives. The unit has been pushed to 7%
zone vapor that was condensed in the on crude, depending on the asphalt above design charge rates; crude hy-
pumparound, thereby increasing reflux produced. Preheat temperature in- draulics is the only limiting factor. ✦
in the MGO-asphalt fractionation sec-
tion. The authors
Other changes included a new bot- Daryl W. Hanson (dhanson@ process engineer for Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp.
tom quench system, which eliminated is a chemical He holds a BS in chemical engineering from
high bottoms temperature areas that engineer with Process Consult- Lehigh University.
caused thermal cracking. Because the ing Services Inc., Houston. His
responsibilities include concep- Joe Johnson is the maintenance
oil residence time was high in the col- tual process design and equip- manager for Citgo Asphalt Re-
umn’s bottom, thermal cracking ad- ment design. He specializes in fining Co., Savannah, Ga. His
versely affected asphalt properties and all phases of refinery distilla- experience includes mainte-
the amount of cracked gas produced tion from process simulation nance, reliability, and construc-
(Fig. 11). through field inspection. Previ- tion for the petroleum and
A quench system was installed that ously he was lead process specialist for Koch- chemical industries. Johnson
eliminated high-temperature gradients Glitsch Inc. where he was involved with more holds a BS in mechanical engi-
in the bottom of the column. than 100 column revamps including heavy oils neering from Auburn Universi-
and light-ends recovery towers. Hanson holds a ty.
BS in chemical engineering from Texas A&M
Energy efficiency University. Bruce Dahm is the refinery
The heater outlet temperature and manager for Citgo Asphalt Re-
asphalt product rundown temperature Tony Barletta is a chemical fining Co., Savannah, Ga. He
determined the energy consumption. engineer for Process Consulting has 30 years’ experience in the
Lowering these temperatures reduced Services Inc., Houston. His pri- refining industry, including ex-
energy consumption. The minimum as- mary responsibilities are con- perience in process engineering,
phalt product rundown temperature ceptual process design and operations, and projects. Dahm
process design packages for holds a BS in chemical engi-
was set at about 330° F. for environ- large capital revamps. Barletta neering from the University of
mental and oil movement reasons. previously worked as a produc- Toledo and an MBA from
Because asphalt product yield was tion planner and process spe- Cleveland State University. He is a registered pro-
75-80% of the crude charge, the ma- cialist for BP Oil Co.’s Alliance refinery and as a fessional engineer in Ohio.

Process Consulting Services, Inc.

3400 Bissonnet
Suite 130
Houston, Texas 77005
Phone: [1]-(713)-665-7046
Fax: [1]-(713)-665-7246