Meet Mr. Distillation | RefinerLink

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Meet Mr. Distillation

By Ralph Laurel

Dec 13, 2015

Most refiners over-emphasize utilization and forget about yields. Many of those who are aware of yields tend to focus on conversion, but not distillation. In the end, separation quality is an important area of oil refining that many neglect.


Meet Mr. Distillation.  He’s the guy just looking to hand you some money at your refinery.  He’s taking care of business day in and day out and you’re taking him for granted.  He’s separating molecules and trying to send them to the right places but you’re really not giving him much help. 


He’s in your crude unit, your gas plants, your FCC unit, your Alky, and even your Coker unit (I’m serious! Even in the Coker!).  He hangs out in almost every part of your refinery.  He’s got ways to shift jet into gasoline or jet into diesel.  He’s able to get light cycle oil out of FCC bottoms, propane out of fuel gas, and that crazy guy can even get valuable isobutane molecules out of normal butane.   


Every refinery focuses on things like feed rates and reactor temperatures but forget that those things mean nothing if you don’t recover the product molecules in the right streams.  What good is the fancy new expensive FCC catalyst you’re paying for if all that extra distillate is getting dropped in your fractionators down to FCC bottoms?


All that extra crude rate you’re running? Doesn’t matter one bit if poor fractionation is resulting in gasoil molecules being lost in resid.  Even the less thought about products like propane can improve profitability if recovered out of fuel gas.  And don’t forget about getting isobutane out of normal butane.  That extra isobutane is more valuable AND you’ll be able to blend a higher volume of butane in mogas.



That Mr. Distillation is an important dude.  


He doesn’t ask for much.  A little extra reflux, maybe some extra duty on the reboilers, but most of all he just requires some thought.  There’s a high probability that if you picked out one of the fractionation towers in your refinery there’s an easy way to improve its performance. 


So start paying some attention to Mr. Distillation… because chances are he’s got a lot more money to hand out. Learn more about Distillation Troubleshooting should your curiosity have been piqued.

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  • :   Would like to hear more about the future of distillation in a discussion group.

    Jul 13, 2012

  • :   Dear Mr Distillation can you contact me thanks

    Jul 13, 2012

  • :   Would like to hear more about distillation in a discussion group.

    Jul 13, 2012

  • :   Mr Distillation, do you have a blog thread on this site. I would like to ask you some questions. Thanks

    Apr 26, 2014

  • Andrew Kuo Wei Chiao :   The poor awareness on the distillation unit operation is common to many refinery people because the process is not visual as it happened inside the columns and often vague to perceive. Do you know of any top management in the refinery who has a good understanding on the concept of separation and mixing?

    Dec 20, 2015

  • Michael Taube :   I agree 100% on this assertion. Furthermore, I've found that the controls on most distillation columns are poorly and/or improperly designed: that is, the MV-CV pairing is inappropriate. This has become even more prevalent as refineries are operating more like chemical plants - lower & tighter spec requirements - but few traditional refinery engineers understand how this affects the design of the controls that ultimately determines profitability. Significant gains in throughput are achieved by having well designed distillation controls at the regulatory level. While many would promote multi-variable control (APC) as the solution, the same benefits (or very nearly so) are possible with good regulatory controls at a mere fraction of the cost of APC - both initial implementation AND on-going maintenance.

    Dec 20, 2015

  • Md. Abubakar :   Honest truth.... Least one!!! Management emphasise on particular on quantitative and qualitative point of view for products only. It's by products like intermediate cuts and high boiling material is being less focused for achieving finished targets. Also,it's operation theory is so complex and latter it will concluded, it's by products also carry huge dollar. Aftermore it's processing cost is much highers than the finished goods processing cost.

    Jan 03, 2016

  • Keith Tolleson :   Get an associates degree in PTEC and learn all about Distillation, and more. Learn refinery operations In fact after the two year degree you can make 6 figures $ working in a distillation unit, PTEC Process Technology Nunez Community college.

    May 14, 2017

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