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Petroleum Processing

Catalytic Hydrotreatment

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Catalytic Hydrotreatment

As seen with the catalytic reforming in the previous section, catalytic hydrotreatment can be used as a pretreatment step to protect catalysts from crude oil contaminants such as heteroatom (S, N, O) compounds, as well as metals (mainly Ni, V). Hydrotreatment is also used as a major finishing process in a petroleum refinery. Shifting to the side stream products from the distillation column, kerosene and light gas oil fractions can be hydrotreated to remove the heteroatoms to produce the final products of jet fuel, and diesel fuel, as shown in Figure 3.4. Particularly strict sulfur limits are imposed on diesel fuels so that the particulate emissions from diesel engines can be reduced. In the U.S., the government regulations [3] require that highway and non-road locomotive and marine (NRLM) use diesel fuel that meets a maximum specification of 15 parts per million (ppm) sulfur by 2014, with a full compliance for highway use and non-road diesel fuel since December of 2010. Note in Figure 5 that typical catalysts used for hydrotreating are Co and Mo compounds supported on alumina (Al2O3). Jet fuel consists of C10 to C15 hydrocarbons, and diesel fuel consists of C15 to C20 hydrocarbons. Analogous to octane number for gasoline, a performance parameter for diesel fuel is cetane number (n-C16H34, n-hexadecane) that measures, in contrast to octane number, the tendency (not resistance) of diesel fuel to ignite upon compression with air. As a side note, light gas oil fraction is not typically used in the U.S. for producing diesel fuel, but sent to catalytic cracking to make gasoline.

kerosene in hydrotreater yields jet fuel, while light gas oil in the hydrotreater Diesel fuel (C15-C20)
Figure 3.4. Catalytic hydrotreatment of jet fuel and diesel fuel.
Source: Dr. Semih Eser

[3] Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, PART 80—REGULATION OF FUELS AND FUEL ADDITIVES, Subpart I—Motor Vehicle Diesel Fuel; Nonroad, Locomotive, and Marine Diesel Fuel; and ECA Marine Fuel, accessed on April 9, 2014.