Process Economics Program Report 161
Vacuum Residuum as a Petrochemical Feedstock
Published: August 1983
The most intractable component of residual fuel oil is vacuum residue, principally because of its high content of asphaltenic material and metallic contaminants. In this respect it resembles the more carbonaceous fossil fuels. Other fuel oil components (primarily required for meeting viscosity specifications) command a much higher price because they can otherwise be sold as middle distillate or used as conversion feedstock for gasoline and distillate production. Despite its resemblance to even more carbonaceous fossil fuels, however, vacuum residue is the component with which the refiner is inevitably confronted when satisfying consumer demand for transportation and distillate fuels. With the trend toward heavier crude oil slates, this problem will be yet further accentuated.
This report addresses the problem of upgrading vacuum residue (and, by association, residual fuel oil) by existing and developing technology, into lighter products more readily marketed. Although this report is specifically directed toward petrochemicals, primarily via synthesis gas or olefins plant feed (naphtha and middle distillate), the large potential surplus of vacuum residue also necessitates an examination of conventional refining economics, since it is virtually certain that both major end-uses will need to coexist.