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This solvent-extraction process can monetize tough refinery sludges

By Scott Jenkins |

Construction has begun on a commercial prototype of a low-boiling-point solvent-extraction process for recovering used catalyst powder and slurry oil from a recalcitrant sludge produced in the fluid catalytic cracking units (FCCUs) of petroleum refineries. The process allows refiners to isolate two valuable materials — powdered catalyst material that can be used as an equilibrium catalyst in FCCUs, as well as slurry oil that can be used as premium-grade feedstock for the manufacture of carbon black and needle coke — that would otherwise be wasted, according to developer Cat’ Fine Management Technologies LLC (CFMT; Liberty, Tex.; www.cfmtllc.com). When catalyst powder (fines) escapes through the FCCU cyclones and accumulates in the slurry oil stream, a sludge forms that CFMT CEO Larry Weber likens to “talcum powder in molasses.” The sludge is classified as an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA)-listed K-170 hazardous waste, and makes for the “toughest tank-cleaning job in the business,” he says. The current treatment approach for this sludge material involves diluting the slurry-oil storage-tank bottom sludge with light-cycle oil (LCO) and then centrifuging the mixture,…
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