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Comment Processing & Handling

A push to upgrade naphthas into petrochemicals

By Gerald Ondrey |

Last month, MOL Group (Budapest, Hungary: entered into a strategic partnership with Inovacat (Amersfoort, the Netherlands; to further upscale and commercialize Inovacat’s Gasolfin gasoline-to-olefins technology, which converts low-valued gasoline and naphthas into high-value propylene, butylene and BTX (benzene, toluene, xylenes). MOL Group will support the next stages of the development program of Inovacat and will investigate different options for the implementation of Gasolfin in its production facilities.

The Gasolfin technology may be inserted into almost any existing petroleum refinery (diagram) or petrochemical plant configuration. Gasolfin uses a proprietary catalytic system comprising modified zeolites tailored for the selected feedstock. The process operates at low-pressure and moderate temperature, utilizing standard processing equipment. The reactor section consists of multi-staged, fixed-bed reactors, which is optimized for cracking gasoline-boiling-range hydrocarbons immediately into propylene and butylenes. Also, the graded, mixed-catalyst bed guarantees long operating cycle times by minimizing deactivation reactions, such as coke formation, which is problematic for conventional, precious-metal and chromium-based propane-dehydrogenation processes.

This patented technology delivers propylene yields of up to 45% depending on feedstock, and can convert any light straight-run naphtha, including pentanes, says Inovacat. It is also at least 30% more energy efficient than comparable conventional processes, with CO2 emissions being at least 25% lower. Investment payback time of a Gasolfin unit is less than 18 months, says MOL.

MOL plans to increase its non-fuel production in petroleum refining from the current 30% to 50% of total output, which will be done mostly through increasing feedstock transfer to chemicals. In order to reach its strategic goals, MOL plans to invest around $4.5 billion into its petrochemical segment by 2030, focusing mainly on the extension of the propylene value chain in the next five years.


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