Written by: Matt Lehr and Robert Ohmes
Light tight oil (LTO, also known as shale oil) formations are providing a new crude source to North America and soon to the world, with the construction of condensate splitters in the US Gulf Coast and the announcement that the US government was lifting the crude export ban. Agreements between the US and Mexico have been announced that will allow crude swaps, thereby sending LTO into refineries in Mexico. Other countries in the region are also examining the potentials of LTO imports. The economic advantages of processing LTO crudes are the low crude cost relative to world benchmark crudes and higher quality compared to other available crudes.
The production and processing of LTO crudes is relatively new, whereas Asia Pacific conventional crudes that have similar qualities (when compared to LTO crudes) have been in production and refined for many years. In addition, West African crudes and conventional US crudes (such as West Texas Intermediate, WTI) have been displaced from US refiners and replaced with LTO crudes. Therefore, a comparison of example LTO, conventional US, Asian Pacific, and West African crude distillate qualities presents a possible mechanism to provide operating and product impact insight for hydrotreaters in LTO processing facilities. This whitepaper will provide some high level impacts of LTO processing on a facility, and then use a kinetic model to highlight the unit specific impacts that can occur.