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Eni licenses EST technology to Sinopec to convert residues to high-quality light products; eliminating pet-coke and fuel oil

Eni’s proprietary Eni Slurry Technology (EST) is able to convert refining residues entirely into high-quality light products, eliminating both liquid and solid refining residues with significant environmental benefits. Eni has now sold the licence and basic engineering project to the Chinese company Sinopec for the construction of a refining plant based on EST. The plant will be built at the Sinopec refinery in Maoming, in Guandong province, and is due to be completed by 2020.

EST completely converts refinery residues, heavy oils and bitumen into high-quality light products, eliminating the production of both liquid and solid refinery residues (for example, pet-coke or fuel oil). EST is based on the hydro-conversion of heavy loads using a nano-dispersed catalyser (slurry).


The EST hydrocracking technology features:

  • A very active, dispersed, non-ageing, slurry catalyst, which prevents coke formation and promotes upgrading reactions (sulfur, nitrogen and metals removal and CCR reduction);

  • A slurry bubble column reactor developed in-house, perfectly homogeneous and isothermal. EST reactor favours optimal control of exothermic hydrocracking reactions, thus increasing energy efficiency at the same time;

  • A fractionation section for the recovery of the light, middle and heavy distillates; and

  • An innovative process scheme that allows catalyst to be recycled in a very simple and economic way.

In refining operations, this process can be a solution for the conversion of the “bottom of the barrel”, making possible, on the one hand, a better use of classic resources, also in environmental terms and, on the other hand, the exploitation of unconventional resources, such as extra-heavy crude oil and tar sands, which in the coming years will play an important role in the growth of energy supplies.

Sinopec, the world’s largest operator in the refining sector, will consequently be the first international company to make full use of the EST, which Eni developed through its research and industrial developments.

Sinopec will build an EST plant with the design capacity of 46,000 barrels per day of heavy refining residue (310 tonnes per hour). The plant will replace the existing pet-coke production line, with significant environmental benefits in compliance with the new IMO (International Maritime Organization) regulations concerning sulphur contained in bunker fuel.

The elimination of pet-coke production is part of global efforts to contain CO2 emissions. As part of the licensing agreement, Eni will provide Sinopec with the basic engineering project (Process Design Package) and other services, such as operational and technical training, as well as assistance during the development phase and the implementation of detailed engineering, and during the pre-commissioning and start up phases. Sinopec will be responsible for detailed engineering and construction operations.

Eni opened its first plant based on EST in 2013. In 2015, Eni and Total entered into a special license and R&D Cooperation Agreement for Eni Slurry Technology (EST) and started to work together to evaluate and tailor the technology to Total’s requirements.


  • Delbianco, A & Meli, S & Tagliabue, Lorenzo & Panariti, N. (2008). “Eni slurry technology: A new process for heavy oil upgrading.” Energy Institute - 19th World Petroleum Congress 2008: A World in Transition: Delivering Energy for Sustainable Growth. 2. 614-622.



Yes, you can convert heavy fuel and even coke to lighter hydrocarbons. All you need to do is add enough hydrogen and enough energy. Look at the diagram.


The Koch brothers would rather sell the pet coke to India so they can throw it into steam power plant furnaces.


There's a refinery south of Detroit which is the subject of chronic nuisance complaints from blowing petcoke dust.

Perhaps 20 miles south of this refinery, there is a 4-unit coal-fired powerplant.  This plant could easily burn all this petcoke, except petcoke is such a filthy fuel it would cost too much to scrub the exhaust and dispose of the solid waste even if the fuel was free.  The only US plant I am aware of which burned/burns petcoke is the Wabash River Repowering Project, which gasifies it and scrubs the syngas.  The last report I saw said that it was burning petcoke from Venezuela, likely because of cheap shipping by barge up the Mississippi and tributaries.  Apparently shipping by train from Detroit to Terre Haute costs too much.

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