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Insight | Time: Jul 11 2017 9:43AM
Upgrade of oils and its impacts brought by CHINA 6
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China released Limits and measurement methods for emissions from light-duty vehicles (CHINA 6)(hereinafter CHINA 6) in Dec 2016 which required that all light vehicles for sale and registered should meet the requirement of CHINA 6 phase a (hereinafter CHINA 6a) as of Jul 1, 2020 and CHINA 6 phase b (hereinafter CHINA 6a) as of Jul 1, 2023. According to standards (CHINA 6) for gasoline and diesel used for vehicles, gasoline and diesel for vehicles should adopt completely relevant requirements of CHINA 6a as of Jan 1, 2019 and CHINA 6b as of Jan 1, 2023. The implementation date of standards for oils is earlier than that for pollutant emission and the former time limit is stricter. Sinopec news office announced on Jun 3 that all 11 refineries owned by Sinopec in Beijing, Tianjin and other 26 cities had completed oil upgrade 3 months in advance. CHINA 6 is the strictest emission standard.

For gasoline, CHINA 6 respectively reduces the limits of olefin content to 18% in CHINA 6a and 15% in CHINA 6b from 24%, aromatics content to 35% from 40%, benzene content to 0.8% from 1% (EU standard)and 50% distillation temperature from 120℃ to 110℃. For diesel, CHINA 6 respectively reduces the limits of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) content to 7% from 11% (8% EU standard), adds the index of total pollutant content no more than 24mg/kg, tightens the upper limit of density and reduces limit temperature of flash point to 60℃ from 55℃.

In order to meet the standards for olefin and aromatics content in gasoline, a part of reformed gasoline and pyrolysis gasoline need to be respectively put into catalytic reforming unit and aromatics catalytic cracking unit to produce aromatics and olefins which are sold according to the content of reformed gasoline in blended gasoline at the beginning of refinery construction. Refinery should design sulfur recovery unit to meet the requirements for environmental protection and limits of sulfur content in CHINA 6. With the limits to refinery technological process like clear production and national policies, a variety of petrochemicals appear.

Oil upgrade is reflected in lower content of aromatics, olefins and other microelements (like sulfur and manganese) and higher octane number. Aromatics content can be reduced by decreasing reformed gasoline in blended gasoline, olefins content can be reduced by decreasing pyrolysis gasoline and sulfur can be reduced through sulfur recovery unit. Octane number can be increased by adding materials with high octane number like toluene, xylene and MTBE.
Gasoline grade Proportion of gasoline blending component (%)
Catalytic gasoline Reformed gasoline Alkylate oil MTBE
90# 100      
93# 70-72   20-15 10-13
93# 70-72 20-15   10-13
93# 68-70 32-30    
93# 60-64   40-36  
95# 58-60 30-26   12-14
95# 38-41 32-35 34-24  
95# 53-56   35-30 12-14
97# 25-33   58-55 12-14
97# 39-44 33-35 10-12 12-14

The table above describes a simple method to blend oils. In China’s blending gasoline, catalytic gasoline accounts for up to 77% (average), reformed gasoline around 15% (average) and alkylate oil only 0.2% (average). In US blending gasoline, catalytic gasoline accounts for 38%, reformed gasoline 24% and alkylate oil 15%. In EU’s blending gasoline, reformed gasoline takes the most but alkylate oil content is 6%, also higher than China’s. High content of catalytic gasoline results in high olefin and sulfur content. Alkylate oil contains little olefins, aromatics and sulfur with high octane number and low vapor pressure. Therefore, to assemble alkylate unit is a measure to upgrade oil.

In addition, gasoline upgrade can also be achieved through accelerating construction of the units for hydro desulfurizing, adsorption desulfurizing, aromatics extraction, MTBE desulfurizing, alkylate, isomerization and light gasoline etherification. However, according to the limits to benzene content in CHINA 6, aromatization is also limited. Diesel can be upgraded through constructing units of hydrofining, hydro-upgrading, hydrocracking and residue hydro-treating.

Overall, refineries need to set up supporting units such as units for alkylate, isomerization and hydrogenation to produce materials with low sulfur, low olefins and low aromatics to complete the upgrade of oils.

What impacts will oil upgrade bring?
Oil upgrading is to look for the clearest and most efficient fuel and beneficial fuel to manage issues on environment like haze. Major refineries with advanced technology, adequate fund and flexible units can easily conduct oil upgrade and will also improve flexibility of the units as well as international influence through the oil upgrade. However, for teapot refineries with lower technology, unstable oil quality and smaller crude oil processing capacity and scale, their feedstock cannot be guaranteed and oil upgrade will exert pressure on them. But teapot refineries can find their own way to introduce oil upgrade through selling alkylate oil and isomerized oil.

CHINA 6 lowers standards for olefins and aromatics content in oils. Calculated by China’s gasoline output of 129.32 million tons in 2016, the output of olefins, aromatics (nearly no benzene) and benzene will increase by 9.74 million tons, 5.56 million tons and 0.22 million tons respectively after CHINA 6 implemented. In 2016, 17.81 million tons of ethylene, 9.91 million tons of PX and 8.15 million tons of benzene were output. In terms of the absolute amount, olefins and aromatics content in oils will reduce and output of olefins and aromatics will increase after CHINA 6 conducted.
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