Published September 2003
Following an episode of intensive interest during the late 1970s and early 1980s as a means to converting coal to transportation fuels, interest in gasification appears to be gaining new impetus. A continuation of the decades long trend of increasingly heavy crude oil feedstock supply availability is resulting in increased yields of low value refinery residues such as residual fuel oil and coke while increasingly stringent environmental regulations appears to be reducing the markets for these residues - particularly petroleum coke. The need to convert these residues into a more marketable product while meeting increased refinery needs for hydrogen and electric power appears to be shifting commercial interest in favor of refinery residue gasification, particularly in the context of a synergistic refinery integrated gasification utility island, as opposed to large stand alone coal gasification facilities.
Recent advances in gasification technologies are facilitating the efficient application of gasification to refinery residues, which can present unique technical challenges relative to more traditional gasification feedstocks such as coal. The low cost synthesis gas intermediate produced can be applied to the economic production of hydrogen, methanol, and other chemicals. Recent advances in gas turbine combined cycle technologies along with the continuing world wide trend of electric utility deregulation are also enabling some refiners to participate in one of the fastest growing energy markets - electric power - via these new generation integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technologies.
The focus of this review is the economics of merchant electric power production via the gasification of fuel grade petroleum coke. The scope of this review includes the captive production of refinery hydrogen in addition to the merchant electric power within the gasification utility island, as estimated for a typical U.S. Gulf Coast refinery. A brief update on the latest world scale commercial gasification projects is also provided.