Honeywell UOP, the US-based supplier of technology to the hydrocarbon sector, had launched a unique kerosene-to-naphtha conversion technology in India last week. Mike Banach, regional general manager and head, Honeywell UOP, India, talks to Shine Jacob about the role played by the company in India’s transition to BS-VI fuels and the future of the petrochemical sector in India. Edited Excerpts:
1. Most of the refineries in India are in a transition phase, moving towards petrochemicals from traditional fuels. How do you see this change?
We see a lot of new expansion, and even grassroot refineries are coming up in India. We see fuel demand increasing in India. (But) We also see that fuel demand in the long-term may come down. At the same time, we see very high growth rates in petrochemicals and changes in fuel specifications, including the launch of BS VI.
Our company is very excited about techniques and tools that we could bring in to help our customers navigate through these challenges – like fluctuation in fuel demand in short, medium and long terms. Something we have been doing over the years. Refineries traditionally started with fuels and slowly immigrated to petrochemicals. When UOP designed Reliance Industries' plant in India, that was fairly integrated with petrochemicals. We are growing to another level now. Today, highly-integrated refineries may be 20 per cent petrochemicals and 75-80 per cent fuel. In future, this will reverse and there will be 80 per cent petrochemicals and 20 per cent fuel. We know this transition is going to happen, but we don't know the timeframe.
We can look at feedstock and see what is there to work with and have special modelling skills to optimize the configuration with different units to maximise petrochemicals. The other thing that we can bring is new technology. Looking at the industry, olefins are in deficit in India, there is option to bring
2. You have launched a technology for conversion of surplus kerosene into petrochemicals. Can you explain it?
Kerosene demand is on a decline in India. Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) also displaced may be around 7 per cent of the fuel from the public distribution system.
Our uni-cracking technology, the key is it runs at much lower pressure which brings 30 per cent savings on expenses over traditional technologies. It is a key technology to convert surplus feedstock into petrochemical feedstock. This gives flexibility to refiners as we never know when fuel is going to drop out. What is nice about this technology, by varying the technologies, refineries can operate at higher severity to convert kerosene into naphtha and LPG when demand for those products is high. On the other hand, those same refiners can operate at lower severity to produce more high quality kerosene and diesel fuel when demand for those products is high. Unicracking is there for 65 years. Because the product naphtha is very important to aromatics, which goes into polyester, PET, fabrics, fibre etc.
3. A lot of talks are going on regarding electric vehicles. How fast this transition will be?
EVs are coming, that is clear. The timing is the question. A lot of infrastructure is required to go along with EVs. Even bigger contributor will be fuel efficiency standards. As cars are regulated to have higher fuel efficiency, I think the effect is going to be bigger from the fuel efficiency gains than at least from EVs.
4. Do you see BS VI as the gamechanger?
I think it is a very important conversion. This has a very huge impact on emissions from vehicles, of course on the air quality too. It was a big challenge for the producers and I think it is well on the way and going smoothly. In fact, it is already in place in Delhi and the national launch is next year.
I am happy to say that about 80 per cent of the technology required for the transition to BS VI will be provided by Honeywell UOP. We provide basic engineering package, license the technology and the user will typically use EPC contractor to build the detailed design of the units. Now, it is a phase where some of these units are staring. Honeywell UOP will typically come back and provide some training to the end user. We work with customer teams too. We do a detailed check of the units to ensure that it meets our specifications, so that when they start, it works smoothly.