|Refinery operations will require increasing amounts of hydrogen to handle heavier crudes and more stringent fuel standards. Click to enlarge.|
Praxair announced the startup of a new hydrogen plant in Whiting, Indiana. The new SMR (steam methane reformer), with a capacity of 20 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscfd), increases Praxair’s existing hydrogen production capacity at Whiting and will supply hydrogen to BP and other customers in northern Indiana. BP will use the hydrogen in the production of ultra-low-sulfur gasoline and diesel fuels.
BP recently announced that it plans to spend some $3 billion reconfiguring its Whiting Refinery so most of its feedstock can be heavy Canadian crude from the oil sands. (Earlier post.) Hydrogen is a critical component in upgrading heavy crude and other refining operations. The heavier and more sour (sulfur-laden) the oil, the more hydrogen is required to refine the crude to meet required standards.
In 2005, North American refining operations consumed 8,800 mmscfd of hydrogen, of which 2,200 mmscfd was purchased—i.e., outsourced. Praxair estimates that while the barrels of crude refined per day will grow 11% from 18 million barrels per day in 2005 to 20 million barrels per day in 2015, the hydrogen required will increase by 70%, from 8,800 mmscfd in 2005 to 15,000 mmscfd in 2015.
Looked at another way, refining operations in 2005 required on average 490 standard cubic feet of hydrogen (1.16 kg H2) per barrel of crude refined. Praxair projects that to increase to an average of 750 standard cubic feet (1.78 kg H2) per barrel by 2015.
Of that 15,000 mmscfd, Praxair estimates that 6,000 will be outsourced, or 40%. In 2005, the outsourcing ratio was 25% (2,200 mmscfd out of 8,800).
Praxair is planning adding 260 mmscfd capacity of hydrogen production to its operations in California by August 2008.
Praxair currently operates a hydrogen-production and pipeline-supply network in Whiting that serves a number of customers in northwest Indiana. Overall, the company operates 34 steam methane reformers and seven major hydrogen pipeline systems that deliver more than 850 million standard cubic feet per day (1,250,000 cubic meters per hour) of hydrogen.