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BASF to start up new FCC catalysts testing and research lab in Germany; addressing the impact of the North American tight oil market

13 March 2013

BASF will start-up a new multi-million euro fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) catalysts testing and research laboratory at the hte Aktiengesellschaft (hte) facility in Heidelberg, Germany. hte is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BASF SE and a leading provider of high throughput technology and services for enhancing research and development productivity.

FCC (source: EIA)
Fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) is primarily used in producing additional gasoline in the refining process. Unlike atmospheric distillation and vacuum distillation, which are physical separation processes, fluid catalytic cracking is a chemical process that uses a catalyst to create new, smaller molecules from larger molecules to make gasoline and distillate fuels.
The catalyst is a sand-like material made fluid by the hot vapor and liquid fed into the FCC. After the gas oil is cracked via the catalyst, the resulting effluent is separated based on various boiling points into several intermediate products, including butane and lighter hydrocarbons, gasoline, light gas oil, heavy gas oil, and clarified slurry oil.
Butane and lighter HCs are processed further to separate them into fuel gas (mostly methane and ethane), propane, propylene, butane, and butene for sale, or for further processing or use. FCC gasoline must be desulfurized and reformed before it can be blended into finished gasoline; light gas oil is desulfurized before blending into finished heating oil or diesel; and heavy gas oil is further cracked in either a hydrocracker or a coker. The slurry oil can be blended with residual fuel oil or further processed in the coker.
Carbon is deposited on the catalyst during the cracking process. This carbon, known as catalyst coke, adheres to the catalyst, reducing its ability to crack the oil. The coke on the spent catalyst is burned off, which reheats the catalyst to add heat to the FCC process. Regeneration produces a flue gas that passes through environmental control equipment and then is discharged into the atmosphere.

With the development of tight oil in the North American market, new opportunities and challenges are being faced by the industry which will require increased capabilities and service delivery from catalysts suppliers. Through this investment, BASF is addressing this need, and taking an active role to fortify its position as the premier service provider to the refining market.

—Herbert Exner, BASF Vice President, Refinery Catalysts & Technologies

The new BASF laboratory will begin operating in the first half of 2014, and will be used for hydrocarbon and FCC equilibrium catalysts standard analysis and characterization, FCC catalysts process methodology testing and related research activities, providing quality data to BASF and its customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The opening of the Heidelberg laboratory will increase the service capabilities offered by BASF’s existing FCC catalysts laboratory in Iselin, New Jersey, and will enable the company to better serve customers across all regions of the world, BASF said.

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