Petroecuador begins 14-month phased revamp at Esmeraldas refinery

State-owned Petroecuador has started the first phase of a 14-month cycle of rehabilitation and modernization activities at its 110,000-b/d Esmeraldas refinery that will require intermittent periods of suspended operations at the plant.

The rehabilitation and modernization project began on July 12, with operations of unidentified processing units temporary suspended to begin maintenance work on infrastructure within the refining complex, according to a release on the government of Ecuador’s official news site.

Refinery operations are scheduled to come to a complete halt for the 45-day period of Oct. 1–Nov. 15, according to a separate release from Petroecuador.

Refinery units not undergoing active maintenance will continue to operate as normal, and the company has taken appropriate measures to ensure local and national fuel supplies will not be interrupted during the duration of the project, Petroecuador said.

The rehabilitation of the Esmeraldas refinery aims to equip the plant to operate at 100% of its nameplate operational and production capacity as well as increase its environmental performance by reducing emissions levels that conform to national and international standards, according to an Apr. 18 release from Ecuador’s Ministry of Non-Renewable Hydrocarbons.

In a more detailed operations plan for the Esmeraldas project released earlier in the year, Petroecuador said the “gradual and progressive” rehabilitation and modernization work between July 2014 and August 2015 primarily will focus on the refinery’s fluid catalytic cracking unit, while Crude Unit 1, Vacuum Unit 1, and Visbreaking Unit 1 will undergo rehabilitation activities from July 2014 through January 2015.

Work on the FCC will include the replacement of the unit’s regenerator and reactor in order to boost its processing capacity to 20,000 b/d from a current 18,000 b/d as well to improve the quality of finished products, Petroecuador said.

The project also will include modifications to the refinery’s electrical system to improve the plant’s operational autonomy, Petroecuador said.

The rehabilitation and modernization of the refinery is scheduled for completion in late 2015, the state-run company said.

Last year, Petroecuador let a $100 million contract to KBC Advanced Technologies PLC to supply a best practices plan for the technical and operating sector of the Esmeraldas refinery (OGJ, Jan. 7, 2013, p. 109).

In addition to licensing its process and energy modeling software tools, KBC’s scope of work also included working with Petroecuador directly and through a major subcontractor to improve the refinery's core work processes and its support systems as well as develop the technical capability of the workforce over a 4-year period.

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