Russian Base Oils to Gradually Modernize


BERLIN – Russian base oil producers envision modernizing their plants to add 1.6 million metric tons per year of API Group II and III capacity by the early 2020s, according to an industry insider.

During the next 10 years refiners will switch to hydrocatalytic processes and abandon the old way of manufacturing base oil. Some, such as Lukoils and Rosnefts Nizhny Novgorod and Novokuibyshevsk refineries are planning to close their old installations that use conventional processes of dewaxing and solvent extraction, Vladimir Kapustin, head of Moscow-based research and design institute VNIPIneft, told WRAs CIS Downstream Week conference held in Berlin last month. Others, such as Rosnefts Angarsk and Lukoils Volgograd refineries, are planning to rationalize and improve their Group I base oil production.

After years of planning and delays caused by changing market conditions, Russias new petrochemical export tax codes and economic sanctions stemming from the conflict in Ukraine, almost all Russian base oil marketers postponed plans for to add Group II or III base oil production. Some, such as Lukoil, pushed back commissioning dates from the mid-2010s to the early or mid-2020s.

The market changes left only three oil majors confident about revamping their base oil production – Rosneft, Gazprom Neft and Lukoil, according to VNIPIneft. Tatarstan, Russia-based Tatneft recently started Group II/III base oil production at its Nizhnekamsk refinery, making it the first Russian oil major with large-scale, high quality base oil capacity.

Planned projects

Rosnefts Angarsk refinery is getting ready for a revamp expected to reconfigure its 280,000 t/y base oil plant by 2019, according to Kapustin, who said the plant will use hydroisomerization and hydrofinishing technology licensed from ExxonMobil Research and Engineering. Following the modernization, its capacity will include 66,000 t/y of Group I (a decrease from the current 300,000 t/y), 128,000 t/y of Group II and 86,000 t/y of Group III base oils, Kapustin revealed.

The revamp that Rosneft is planning in Novokuibyshevsk could make the plant there Russias largest Group II producer, with 400,000 t/y total capacity. The project is intended to be completed in two phases – the first now under construction and scheduled to wrap up by the end of this year, the second to be finished by 2018.Novokuibyshevsk will use solvent extraction and hydro-catalytic technology from ExxonMobil along with wax isomerization and hydro-treatment technology from Chevron Lummus.

VNIPIneft found that Lukoils Volgograd refinery revamp could include deasphalting and solvent extraction units and construction of a new vacuum gasoil hydrocracking, hydrodewaxing and hydrofinishing complex, using technology licensed from ExxonMobil.

The first phase is expected to be ready by the end of 2019. The plants modernization could provide the following base oil capacities: 130,000 t/y of Group I, 230,000 t/y of Group II, and 35,000 t/y of Group III base oils, Kapustin said. Volgograd currently has capacity to produce 25,000 t/y of Group III base oils – and 495,000 t/y of Group I. Another Lukoil plant set for modernization is located in Perm, but it is not known what licensed technology it will employ. What we know is that the revamp could provide capacity to manufacture 350,000 t/y of Group II base oils.

Gazprom Nefts Omsk refinery is set for modernization and expansion. The project is expected to add capacity for 150,000 t/y of Group II and 75,000 t/y of Group III and it could also increase Group I capacity from the current 240,000 t/y to 280,000 t/y. The modernization is planned to be ready in the early 2020s, and it will employ hydrodewaxing and hydrofinishing technologies, Kapustin said.

Slavneft, a joint venture between Gazprom Neft and Rosneft, is also set to modernize its base oil production. The revamp could include a unit for hydrodewaxing and hydrofinishing of hydrocracked fuel residue, according to VNIPIneft. Its capacity will include 100,000 t/y of Group III base oils only, and is expected to go onstream by the end of 2018, Kapustin said.

Realized projects

Among these companies, so far only Tatneft has completed a modernization project. Last month it started commercial production of a base oil plant at Nizhnekamsks Taneco refinery. As a general designer of the plant with capacity to produce 100,000 t/y of Group III and 90,000 t/y of Group II base oils, VNIPIneft complained it faced procurement problems such as incomplete equipment and lack of equipment documentation from manufacturers such as Italian Howden or Indian Chempex.

However, it is a big success and it looks wonderful how Tatneft and VNIPIneft realized their long-sought plans to build the plant, the first of its kind in Russia, Kapustin said.

VNIPIneft also worked as general designer of the hydrockracking installations at Slavnefts refinery in Yaroslavl, Lukoils in Perm and Rosnefts in Ryazan.

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