Sinopec Upgrades Base Oils


Chinese petroleum giant Sinopec has been busy upgrading its base oil sites to meet the nations fast-growing demand for high quality lubes.

Zeng Haiying, manager, Sinopec Lubricants Co., discussed the improvements in a presentation, Base Oil Development Status and Outlook, at CBIs China Base Oil Summit in Chongqing in September.

The goal is to produce more high quality base stocks, Zeng added in a subsequent interview with Lube Report.

Demand is basically driven by two trends, she added – soaring car sales and adoption of more automated processes by various types of Chinese manufacturers.

Chinese car owners and manufacturers are seeking high quality, more energy-efficient lubes for their cars and expensive equipment – to guarantee better performance and protection, she said.

This is the reason for the massive investment that Sinopec made at five plants – Jinan in Shandong province, Gaoqiao in Shanghai, Yanshan in Beijing, Jingmen in Hubei province, and Maoming in Guangdong province – to add sophisticated hydrotreatment units to supply API Group II and III base oils.

In Yanshan, for example, the construction is still underway for changes scheduled to come online in early 2014. The project includes installation of a lube hydrogenation unit that uses ExxonMobils selective catalytic dewaxing technology. Zeng said the project, which started in 2011 and cost about CN1.2 billion (U.S. $192 million), will allow Yanshan to produce a total of 240,000 metric tons per year of API Group II+ and III base oils, including 56,000 t/y of Group II 3 centiStoke, 69,000 t/y of Group III 4cSt, 51,000 t/y of Group III 6 cSt and 64,000 t/y of Group III 10 cSt. She did not say if the upgraded plant will continue making Group I or II oils.

Next year will also see the introduction of new units at the Maoming plant, where a hydrocracker and a hydroisomerization unit will be installed. The project, which cost 1.24 billion and uses Sinopecs proprietary dewaxing catalyst, is expected to yield 250,000 t/y of new Group III base oil capacity.

Reconstructed facilities in the other three plants are already in operation. In Jingmen, a high-pressure hydrogenation unit and a moderate-pressure isodewaxing unit generate 100,000 t/y of Group II base oils. In Gaoqiao, Chevrons isodewaxing technology guarantees 310,000 t/y of Group II to III base oils, while the Jinan plant can make 150,000 t/y of Group II base oils, plus bright stock 150, a core material for heavy finished lubricants.

According to Sinopec, Jinan and Jingmen produce heavy grade basic oils, and the other three plants produce light grades.

While such an arrangement is not necessarily required, Zeng said Sinopec adopts it because base oil output from the companys plants today is strongly affected by crude oil input.

We hope in the near future light and heavy grades can be produced in one plant, she said.

While Zeng made it clear that high viscosity index Group II and III will become the main business of the companys base oil business, she also added it will continue to supply Group I base oil. In 2012, the Maoming plant, which refines sour crude from Middle East, improved its solvent extraction units capacity to reach the annual output of 550,000 t/y from the previous 250,000 t/y.

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