Study of Catalyst Particle Emissions From a Fluidized Catalytic Cracker Unit
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The control of particle emissions from an oil refinery is often difficult, due to changing operational conditions and the limited range of available treatment options. Excessive particle emissions have often been attributed start up problems with Fluidized Catalytic Cracker Units (FCCU) and little information is available regarding the exact composition and nature of these excessive emissions. Due to the complex nature of a FCCU, it has in the past been difficult to identify and control emissions, without the use of expensive end of pipe technologies. An Australian Oil Refinery, concerned with their catalyst emissions, sponsored this study of FCCU particle emissions. Due to the industrial nature of the project, a holistic approach to the management of emissions was taken, instead of a detailed investigation of a single issue. By looking at the broader range of issues, practical and useful outcomes can be achieved for the refinery. Initially, detailed emissions samplings were conducted to investigate the degree of particle emissions under start up conditions. Stack emissions were collected during a standard start up, and analysed to determine the particle size distribution and metal concentration of the emitted material. Three distinct stages of emissions were discovered, initially a high concentration of larger particles, followed by a peak in the very fine particles and finally a reduction of particle emissions to a more steady or normal operational state. The variation in particle emissions was caused by operational conditions, hardware design and catalyst characteristics. Fluctuations in the gas velocity through the system altered the ability of the cyclones to collect catalyst material. Also, the low bed level allowed air bypass to occur more readily, contributing to the increased emissions levels seen during the initial stage of the start up. Reduced fluidity characteristics of the circulating catalyst also affected the diplegs operations, altering the collection efficiency of the cyclone. During the loading of catalyst into the system, abraded material was quickly lost due to its particle size, contributing to fine particle emissions levels. More importantly, thermal fracturing of catalyst particles occurred when the cold catalyst was fed into the hot regenerator. Catalyst particles split causing the generation of large amounts of fine particle material, which is easily lost from the system. This loading of catalyst directly linked to the period of high concentration of fine particles in the emissions stream. It was found that metals, and in particular iron, calcium and silicon form a thick layer on the outside of the catalyst, with large irregular shaped metal ridges, forming along the surface of the particle. These ridges reduce the fluidity of the catalyst, leading to potential disruptions in the regenerator. In addition to this, the metal rich ridges are preferentially removed via attrition, causing metal rich material to be emitted into the atmosphere. To overcome these high particle emissions rates from the FCCU the refinery should only use calcinated catalyst to reduce the influence of thermal process and particle fracture and generation. Although the calcinated catalyst can fracture when added to the system, it is far less than that obtained with uncalicinated catalyst. To further reduce the risk of particle fracture due to thermal stresses the refinery should consider reducing the temperature gradients between the hot and cold catalyst. Due to the economics involved with the regenerator, possible pre-warming of catalyst before addition into system is the preferred option. This pre-heating of catalyst should also incorporate a controlled attrition stage to help remove the build up of metals on the surface of the particles whilst allowing this material to be collected before it can be released into the atmosphere. The remove of the metal crust will also improve the fluidity of the system and reduce the chance of catalyst blockages occurring. Finally, modelling of the system has shown that control of key parameters such as particle size and gas velocity are essential to the management of air emissions. The refinery should look at adjusting start up procedures to remove fluctuations in these key parameters. Also the refinery should be careful in using correlation found in the literature to predicted operational conditions in the system as these correlations are misleading when used under industrial situations.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Environmental Engineering
Item Access Status
Fluidized Catalytic Cracker Units