LISBON, Portugal-With API Group I base oil producers in Europe facing tumultuous times, one presenter told UEILs 2012 Congress that heavy naphthenic mineral oils present a viable alternative to heavy Group I paraffinics.
The refinery system is in an upheaval, Edward Casserly, director of research and development at Jackson, Miss.-based Ergon, Inc., said in an interview following his presentation. Weve been through it in the United States, and its coming to Europe. There are a lot of Group I plants in Europe, and they all wont survive.
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Heavy paraffinic Group I base oils face numerous challenges, including the effects of mandatory clean emissions regulations, the cost of crude oil, the economics of refining and the production advantages of Group II and III base oils. By 2015 Group I oils will represent just about half of the base oil pool, and by 2020 will account for as little as 40 percent of the global base oil capacity.
Hydroprocessing, he said, allows naphthenic plants to produce base oils at lower cost and take advantage of economy of scale. The beauty of hydroprocessing is that you dont need to handle solvents, he said. What weve done at Ergon is turn to hydroprocessing. Weve taken the advances made in the refining of paraffinics and used them on the naphthenic side.
He said that by hydrotreating naphthenic crude, unwanted aromatic compounds are converted into stable, useful compounds or broken into smaller compounds that can then be manufactured into other products. The simpler process and higher capacity results in higher base oil yields. It provides the highest quality product for the lowest cost, Casserly added.
With everyone going toward cleaner products, and with all the regulatory requirements, you need hydroprocessing to get the purity and stability and meet viscometric requirements, he said.