S-Oil: Catalyst Raised Base Oil Yield


Installation of a new catalyst appears now to have been the secret behind a capacity expansion last year at S-Oil Corp.s giant base oil plant in Onsan, South Korea. A boost in output kept the facility neck-and-neck with Motivas base oil plant in Port Arthur, Texas, as the two largest base oil plants in the world.

S-Oil officials yesterday confirmed an April 14 announcement by ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co. that S-Oil installed ExxonMobils MSDW catalytic dewaxing technology on one of three production trains at the Onsan plant. Project Support Team Leader H.W. Shin said S-Oil changed the catalyst on the train last June to improve the quality of Group II oils it produces and to increase yields.

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While Shin did not specify how much yields increased, S-Oil told LubesnGreases magazine last fall that the plant had capacity to produce 24,500 barrels per day. That is 2,000 b/d more than the capacity the company listed upon completing a 10,500-b/d expansion and upgrade in late 2002. Market observers said they would have expected the new catalyst to increase yields by approximately that amount.

Capacity at Motivas Port Arthur plant increased during the spring of 2004 for exactly the same reason – replacement of existing catalyst technology with ExxonMobils MSDW. Motiva Extracts and International Base Oil Sales Manager David L. Hieronymus listed the plant at 25,000 b/d during a presentation at the February 2005 ICIS-LOR World Base Oils Conference. Previously Port Arthur had capacity of 22,000 b/d.

The Onsan plant may have maintained its virtual tie for the moment, but the deadlock will not last much longer. Motiva has begun construction of a third train at the Port Arthur plant, and it is scheduled to come online in January 2006. When first announced in July 2004, the company said the expansion would add 13,700 b/d to capacity. In his February presentation, Hieronymus listed the increase at 15,000 b/d, meaning it will raise the plants total capacity to 40,000 b/d.

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