Feedstock optimisation and prospect of netting steady revenues enabling integrated refineries

Source: press release, 15 September 2020

Integrated refining capacity trend for key companies, 2010-2020 (source: GlobalData Oil and Gas Intelligence Center)
Integrated refining capacity trend for key companies, 2010-2020 (source: GlobalData Oil and Gas Intelligence Center)

The conventional refinery model of generating revenue by processing crude to produce transportation fuels is increasingly under threat from falling fuel demand. In such a scenario, the integration of a refinery with a petrochemicals plant can improve the revenue generation potential of refiners, says GlobalData, a data and analytics company.

According to GlobalData’s latest thematic report, “Integrated Refineries”, an integrated refinery, where refining and petrochemical units are interconnected, is designed to make refinery operations more sustainable.

Ravindra Puranik, Oil and Gas Analyst at GlobalData, comments, “In the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, global fuels demand may find it difficult to reach pre-pandemic levels, putting standalone refiners at risk of closure. However, petrochemicals demand is anticipated to remain steady once the global economy recovers from the downturn. This places the integrated refinery model in a better position for long-term sustainability.”

Integrated refining units can optimise feedstock utilisation by producing many high-value products. Integration of steam cracker and/or aromatics complex to a refining unit creates synergies and achieves benefits for both the units. The petrochemicals plant can meet naphtha and LPG requirements from the adjacent refining units. On the other hand, Py-oil, Py-gas, C9 aromatics and hydrogen can be fed reverse from petrochemical unit to the refinery.

Puranik adds, “The integrated facility can derive efficiency gains from shared resources, including land, power plant, water and wastewater treatment units, storage facilities and secondary conversion units. This also makes it relatively easier to optimise workforce deployment at the facility. All these advantages enable an integrated refinery to achieve better revenue growth compared to standalone unit.”

GlobalData’s thematic research identifies ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Sinopec, PetroChina and Total among the leaders in the integrated refineries theme in the oil and gas industry.

In the competitive landscape for integrated refineries, Chinese national oil companies – Sinopec and PetroChina – are the clear leaders. These two together account for around 19% of the world’s total integrated refining capacity as of July 2020.

Puranik concludes, “Refiners are now focusing on developing innovative processes to maximise petrochemicals yield. The crude to chemicals conversion is one such process that is likely to bring a directional shift in the downstream sector. This process is being developed with the aim of generating 70-80% yield from a barrel of crude. A few notable refiners such as Saudi Aramco, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Total are leading the charge in perfecting crude oil to chemicals conversion.”