Today, the industry has changed dramatically, and refineries are able to process different varieties of crude oil, distilling a slew of petroleum products. The Vadinar refinery of Essar Oil in Gujarat, one of the most modern in the world, is an outstanding example of how state-of-the-art technology enables refineries to cater to the diverse needs of industry.
The Vadinar refinery has so far successfully processed more than 50 varieties of crude from across the world including some of the ‘toughest' crudes. It has incorporated several features while expanding capacity to reduce the environmental impact, keeping emissions and pollutants with the norms.
The recent expansion in capacity and enhancement in complexity of the Vadinar refinery has given it the flexibility to process a much heavier crude diet. The refinery can now process grades with high sulfur content, besides light, medium and ultra-heavy crude oil.
Commissioned in 2006, the base refinery had a name plate capacity of 10.5 million tonnes per annum. The refinery capacity was recently expanded to 18 million tonnes and its ‘complexity’ – on the international Nelson index – enhanced from 6.1 to 11.8, which is among the highest in the world. The increase in complexity enables the refinery to process more than 80 per cent of heavy and ultra-heavy crude, available at lower prices, and still produce high quality products compliant with Euro IV and V norms.
The refinery now has the flexibility to produce higher value, high-quality products, including gasoline (petrol) and gasoil (diesel) conforming to Euro IV and V norms, that have growing acceptance in both domestic and international markets. While close to 80 per cent of its production will now be of valuable light and middle distillates, 50 per cent of the production of diesel and petrol will meet Euro IV and Euro V specifications.
Interestingly, work is currently on to expand the capacity by another two million tonnes. The refinery’s capacity will be expanded to 20 million tonnes by September 2012. Essar has invested about $5 billion in the Vadinar refinery complex, which is India’s second-largest, single-location refinery.
The Vadinar refinery has been built with state-of-the-art technology, ensuring that it has the capability to produce both petrol and diesel suitable for use in India as well as in advanced international markets.
Exports account for almost 40 per cent of the Vadinar refinery’s revenues. Naphtha and gasoline is exported to the Far East and South East Asia, while fuel oil is exported to the Arab Gulf region and Singapore. The company is looking at newer markets including Australia, New Zealand, north-west Europe, the Mediterranean region and neighboring countries in South Asia.
Sweet to sour
The refinery produces LPG, naphtha, light diesel oil, aviation turbine fuel and kerosene. It has been designed to handle a diverse range of crude – from sweet to sour and light to heavy. It is supported by an end-to-end infrastructure setup including single buoy mooring, crude oil tankage, water intake facilities, a captive power plant (currently 380 MW, being expanded to 890 MW), product jetty and dispatch facilities by both rail and road.
Essar Oil has made substantial investments in installing the most advanced equipment and units in the refinery. At 97 m, the crude column is Asia’s tallest and capable of enhanced separation of petroleum products. The DHDS reactor is also the largest in its category capable of producing Euro V-compliant diesel.
These include incorporation of the highest possible sulfur recovery units, low-emission burner designs, sufficient refinery fuel gas production with new units supplemented by natural gas for production of hydrogen, and provision of a state-of-the-art effluent treatment plant.