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Upgrading extra-heavy crude oil using supercritical water

By Chemical Engineering |

Earlier this year, JGC Corp. (JGC; Yokohama, Japan; www.jgc.com), in partnership with Japan Oil, Gas and Minerals National Corp., commenced pilot-scale testing of their Supercritical Water Cracking (SCWC) process. The pilot has a capacity of 5 barrels (bbl) per day (800 L/d) and is located at a government research facility in Alberta, Canada. The pilot plant is part of a joint-research program aimed at upgrading extra-heavy crude oil into more easily transported synthetic crude oil (SCO). At present, in order to transport the extra-heavy crude oil by pipeline, it must be diluted with condensates, naphtha or other lighter oils (the Dilbit process), or through a hydrocracking or delayed coking process (a thermal cracking of residual oil into lighter fractions), a technology known as a Full Upgrader. The Dilbit process requires diluents and a larger-capacity pipeline to transport the product, while the Full Upgrader method requires the use of catalysts and hydrogen, causing possible environmental problems involving the disposal of low-value solid byproducts, such as coke and sulfur, and also requires higher investment costs as well as complex plant operations. On the other hand, SCWC technology (flowsheet), which uses SCW as the thermal…
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