Sinopec Wuhan refinery commissions Ionikylation unit in world’s first commercial revamp from HF alkylation technology
Published: 17 April 2020 - 2 a.m.
By: Martin Menachery
Well Resources Inc., a Canadian company that focuses on green and clean technology development and process licensing in the petroleum sector, announced the commissioning of a 300,000 metric tonnes per year (7,500 bbl/d) Ionikylation unit at Sinopec’s Wuhan refinery, which is the world’s first commercial scale revamp from a hydrogen fluoride (HF) based alkylation process. According to refinery personnel, the unit was commissioned on 21 January 2020 and has been operating at reduced capacity due to decreased fuel demand as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.Traditional acid-based alkylation processes use either HF, or sulphuric acid (H2SO4) to catalyse the reaction of C4 molecules into high octane C8 molecules, or alkylate, for gasoline blending. HF can form a toxic ground-hugging vapour cloud if accidentally released into the atmosphere, and both HF and H2SO4 are corrosive and dangerous when handled in large quantities. Acid-based alkylation technologies require exotic metallurgies for process equipment and also need costly safety systems to protect refinery personnel and the public.Ionikylation, a composite ionic liquid catalysed alkylation process, is an inherently safe process that uses a proprietary non-aqueous liquid salt to facilitate the alkylation reaction. The Ionikylation catalyst is non-hazardous and non-corrosive, allowing all process equipment to be manufactured using low-cost carbon steel. The ionikylation catalyst is regenerated within the process under moderate operating conditions, which provides added benefits of emissions reductions compared to alternative technologies. Ionikylation outperforms traditional acid-based alkylation technologies on both cost and product quality measures.“We are delighted that Ionikylation was the technology of choice when Sinopec Wuhan decided to revamp their existing HF alkylation unit, which was one of the last two operating HF alkylation units in China,” said Warren Chung, president of Well Resources Inc. “The switch to the new technology was a no-brainer, especially considering the mounting safety and regulatory costs and underlying risks associated with the aging HF unit.”Since 2015, a series of high-profile refinery explosions in California, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania have raised the alarm over using HF in refinery operations near densely populated urban centres. North American regulators and local groups have called on refiners to examine their options for mitigating the risks of aging HF alkylation units. Refiners in Asia-Pacific have already embraced Ionikylation as the safe and sustainable alkylation technology of the future.Ionikylation was first demonstrated in 2005 when PetroChina retrofitted an existing 65,000 tpy H2SO4 alkylation unit at its Lanzhou refinery. In 2013, Chinese independent refiner Deyang Chemical Co. Ltd. constructed the first greenfield 100,000tpa Ionikylation unit. Recently, PetroChina commissioned a 150,000tpa Ionikylation unit at its Harbin refinery and a 50,000tpa Ionikylation unit at its Golmud Refinery. Prior to commissioning the 300,000tpa Ionikylation unit at the Wuhan refinery, Sinopec commissioned a similar capacity unit at its Jiujiang refinery.For the latest refining and petrochemical industry related videos, subscribe to our YouTube page.