France's refiners have earmarked investments totaling 6.7 billion francs during 1998-2001 to meet impending European Union specifications for motor fuels.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2000, EU member states will be required to meet tighter restrictions on sulfur and aromatics in gasoline and diesel fuel. This will be followed in 2005 by even stricter requirements.
France's refiners have estimated their expenditures through 2001 to meet the new fuel specs (see table).
Planned spending to meet the Year-2000 requirements is expected to be greatest this year, at about 2.2 billion francs.
Among the announced investments are:
- British Petroleum Co. plc and Mobil Corp. will spend 280 million francs at their joint venture refineries in France (OGJ, Dec. 28, 1998, p. 30).
- Elf Aquitaine will invest 230 million francs at its Donges refinery (OGJ, Feb. 8, 1999, p. 35).
For example, not included in the 2001 total is work expected to be done by Total and Electricit? de France, which are planning to start up a 4 billion franc integrated gasification/combined-cycle (IGCC) plant at Total's Gonfreville refinery in 2003 (OGJ, Sept. 7, 1998, p. 44). The IGCC project will convert high-sulfur heavy fuel oil and other feeds to power and steam. The gasification process also produces hydrogen that Total could use to desulfurize a number of refinery streams.
Another project not included is an upgrade of Esso SAF's 156,000 b/d Port Jerome refinery.
Reducing contaminantsOf the expected spending to meet stricter fuel quality requirements, limiting benzene concentrations in gasoline to 1 vol % is projected to cost 600 million francs, based on expenditures announced to date.
Refiners have several options to reduce gasoline benzene. They can fractionate the feed to the catalytic reformer to remove benzene and benzene precursors, or they can fractionate the reformer product stream to extract benzene and other aromatics for chemicals production. Another option is to hydrogenate the high-aromatics reformate cut in order to saturate the benzene. A combination of these techniques can also be used.
To reduce sulfur concentrations to 150 ppm in gasoline and 350 ppm in diesel, France's refiners are planning to spend 325 million francs-just over half of what will be spent to reduce gasoline benzene. Operating costs for this processing step will be higher, however, because of increased consumption of hydrogen, use of more-efficient hydrodesulfurization catalysts, and processing of sweeter crude oils.
It should be noted that the investments shown in the table do not reflect 100% of the spending by France's refiners to meet EU fuel specs, as operators there have already made some investments to prepare for the impending regulations.
Copyright 1999 Oil & Gas Journal. All Rights Reserved.