The change in crude oil quality around the world has affected the petroleum-refining industry in such a way that current and new refineries are being re-designed to process heavier feedstocks. These new feeds are characterized by high viscosity, density, and boiling point, low API gravity, high amounts of impurities (sulfur, metals, nitrogen, asphaltenes) and low distillate yields, which make them more difficult in terms of production, processing and upgrading compared with light crude oils. Moreover, the extraction and refining of heavy oils generates as much as three times the total CO2 emissions compared to conventional oil. Contrarily, the demand of light distillates for producing the so-called clean fuels is increasing throughout the world. These circumstances place not only refineries but also research centers, catalyst manufacturers and process developers in a great dilemma. They need to adapt and design future technologies for properly producing, processing and upgrading heavy oils. Processes for upgrading heavy oils can be broadly divided into carbon rejection processes (such as coking, visbreaking, and other processes such as solvent deasphalting) and hydrogen addition processes (such as hydrotreating, hydrocracking, hydrovisbreaking and donor-solvent processes). Carbon rejection redistributes hydrogen among the various components, resulting in fractions with increased hydrogen/carbon ratios and fractions with lower hydrogen/carbon atomic ratios. On the other hand, hydrogen addition processes involve reaction heavy crude oils with an external source of hydrogen and result in an overall increase in the hydrogen/carbon ratio. The current technologies of heavy oils conversion into more valuable products, including many processes with different characteristics such as thermal cracking, FCC, hydrocracking, gasification and so on, enabling the effective utilization of heavy oil. However, these technologies are still facing some technical challenges, which make them very expensive, such as the high content of sulfur and nitrogen, over cracking, coke formation, and low yields of the desired products. The research team in this project aims to:
Develop new methods for heavy oil extractions.
Explore novel processes and robust catalysts for upgrading of heavy oil.
Synthesize an efficient catalyst with appropriate support to remove sulfur in the ultra-deep hydrodesulfurization of fuels.
Reduce CO2 emissions produced from heavy oil processes.