Sinopec Upgrades Maoming Plant

The base oil plant at Sinopecs refinery in Maoming, China, has completed an expansion and upgrade that gives it capacity of 400,000 metric tons per year, including 300,000 t/y of API Group III. The oil and gas giant called it the first plant to make Group III using Chinese wax isomerization technology.

This also is the first piece of hydroisomerization equipment with a wholly Chinese-held patent, Sinopec said in a June 17 press release, adding that the project marks the historical end of Chinas complete reliance on imports of Group III base oil.

The refinery that includes the base oil plant is a Sinopec subsidiary, Sinopec Maoming Petrochemical Co. Before the upgrade and expansion, the base oil plant had capacity to make 300,000 t/y of Group I base stocks. The project was in the works for years. Sinopec first announced plans to upgrade the plant in 2004, but the project was delayed several times.

The market for technology to make Group II and III base stocks has been dominated by two companies - Chevron Lummus Global and ExxonMobil Refining and Technology - which have licensed technology for most of the Group II and III projects that have come online the past decade. Sinopec and PetroChina have both sought to break into that business and have provided technology or built units for several facilities - their own and independents - in recent years.

Sinopec claimed Maoming was the first plant to make Group III and Group III+ stocks using domestic technology. Hydroisomerization injects hydrogen in the presence of catalysts to turn waxy molecules into long-chain, highly saturated base oil molecules.

Development of domestic hydroisomerization was one of 10 dragon technology projects singled out by Sinopec as priorities.

Sinopec announced that all of the Group III oil produced at the Maoming plant will go to Sinopec subsidiary Sinopec Lubricants, which will use some to blend its own finished lubricants and market the rest to other lube producers. The subsidiaries will also cooperate to adjust the characteristics of Maomings base stocks to optimize their suitability for use in lubricants.

The Maoming base oil plant is one of five operated by Sinopec, and with its upgrade all are now capable of making Group II and/or Group III stocks. Altogether they have capacity to make more than 1.7 million t/y of Group I, II and III stocks. Sinopec is the second-largest base oil producer in China, after PetroChina.