3 years


Growing World Class

R Ramachandran is Director (Refineries), BPCL
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BPCL Kochi Refinery has crossed yet another milestone by completing the Golden Jubilee of its existence. The major point of discussion at this moment is the integrated refinery expansion project (IREP). The completion of IREP would position BPCL-KR as one of the top refineries in terms of production and complexity. Could you please elaborate on the salient features of the refinery expansion?

Yes, it is a memorable occasion that Kochi Refinery is completing the Integrated Refinery Expansion Project (IREP) in its Golden Jubilee year. IREP project will increase net refining capacity by 6 Million Metric Tonnes Per Annum (MMTPA) (9.5 to 15.5 MMTPA) and meet the growing demand for petroleum products in Indian market especially in Kerala and south India. After IREP, Kochi Refinery will be the biggest public sector refinery of India with 15.5 MMTPA capacity. The new single Crude Distillation Unit/ Vacuum Distillation Unit (CDU/VDU) of 10.5 MMTPA capacity has already been commissioned and other units of projects are under completion and pre commissioning stage. This project will enable better returns to match with world class refineries (improve profitability) through;a) Reduction in specific energy consumption by 10 MBTU/ BBL/ NRGFb) Improvement in gross refining margin due to flexibility of processing cheap heavy crudes with bottom upgradation facility.c) Improvement in Nelson complexity factor from 6.4 to 10.2.

The investment connected with the IREP 17 is around Rs 24,500 crore. This is the largest single investment witnessed by the state of Kerala in its entire history. What is the kind of multiplier impact you foresee for the state as a result of this investment?

The major offshoots enabled by IREP will be (A) set up of petrochemical complex based on 500 TMT Propylene helping in production of niche chemicals which are predominately imported in country. This will also support our Prime Minister vision of ‘Make In India’ (B) additional revenue to state and central government in the form of taxes and creation of more opportunities for state.

Could you give some details about the environmental impact of the capacity expansion project? Is it true that the expansion will not result in any additional stress on the environment as a result of you employing a reverse osmosis technology?

IREP project is designed with the latest technology available in the market so that it will not have an additional impact on the air and water pollution.

Reverse Osmosis technology is adopted with capacity of 1300 m3/hr for recycling of process water from different units.

There will be no additional fresh water required in refinery after commissioning of the IREP project. What about possible air pollution?

IREP is designed in such a way that it will lead to no additional impact on refinery air and liquid pollution. Environmental protection measures like use of low sulphur fuel, increasing recovery of sulphur from sulphur recovery unit; low nitrogen oxide burners in heaters, use of electrostatic precipitator in FCCU for minimizing particulate emissions and flare gas recovery unit will be installed in project for taking care of emissions from refinery. Also various units in projects are enabling production of BS IV grades auto fuels which helps in reducing emissions from vehicles.

Capacity expansion is designed with the latest technology available in the market so that it will not have an additional impact on the air and water pollution

You have mentioned that apart from the capacity expansion the project will also result in improving the complexity of the refinery. The complexity will move up from five to 10. What does that mean from the perspective of a consumer?

Improvement in Nelson complexity factor through IREP will be from 6.4 to 10.2. The higher complexity factor will be achieved by adding more integrated treatment and conversion process which helps in processing cheap heavy crudes and producing additional volumes of transportation fuels like motor spirit, aviation turbine fuel and high speed diesel meeting BS IV/ BS VI standard.

Several new technologies have been absorbed as part of the capacity expansion. Could you please elaborate on the new technologies and its impact on the petroleum sector?

A few of the new technologies employed are as below;

1) Installing a new energy efficient state of the art integrated Crude and Vacuum Distillation Unit of 10.5 MMTPA with hybrid ejector system and decommissioning of old less energy efficient unit of 4.5 MMTPA.

2) Naphtha Hydrotreater and Isomerisation unit (ISOM) for converting low value product naphtha to gasoline feedstock blend.

3) Petro FCCU with Propylene recovery unit for polymer grade propylene which is the feed stock for downstream petrochemical complex. The propylene will be used for production of propylene based Niche Petrochemicals, which are being predominantly imported into the country.

4) Delayed Coker unit (DCU) for the conversion of heavy ends to distillates with petcoke as by-product which can be used as feedstock in power generation units and cement plants.

5) A tail gas treating unit is installed to achieve 99.9 % recovery of sulphur from sulphur recovery units and minimising air pollution.

Apart from above various energy saving measures are also implemented which will enhance the profitability of refinery and reduce environmental impact.

Could you provide the details of the petrochemical complex planned at an estimated investment of nearly Rs 4,800 crore?

As an offshoot of IREP, BPCL is entering in the field of Petrochemicals. The propylene available from the new PFCCU will be used for the production of propylene based niche petrochemicals, which are predominantly imported in the country. The technology for the project has been sourced from international renowned technology licensors. The project location is selected adjacent to the Kochi Refinery for exploiting benefits of integration.

The petrochemicals produced from complex will be Oxo Alcohols, Acrylic acid and Acrylates. These products are used in manufacturing consumer and other goods in sectors like health and hygiene, paints, printing inks, adhesives and plasticizers.

The completion of the project is expected to provide a major boost to availability of petroleum products in Kerala as well as other parts of South India. Could you please elaborate on this? Is it true that Kerala will become self sufficient in LPG supply as well as petrol and diesel?

IREP enable increase in net refining capacity of Kochi refinery by 6 MMTPA and meeting the growing demand of petroleum products in Indian market especially in Kerala and south India. In fact based upon supply demand balance of petroleum oil and lubricant (POL) products in state there will be surplus of products which will be transported to rest of country.

Meticulous planning and information system solutions have been used for greater productivity and discipline at the Kochi Refinery

The number of tankers operating in Kerala for transporting LPG, petrol and diesel is expected to see a drastic fall after the completion of the venture. Could you please give some numbers in this regard?

The new LPG pipe line being installed from the Kochi Refinery to Udayamperoor Bottling plant and to Coimbatore will enable reduction of LPG movement by tankers. The pipeline movement of LPG will enhance safety as well as availability of LPG at bottling plants.

The capacity expansion also requires and elaborates cabling and pipeline network. Can you please provide some details of the pipeline network in connection with the project?

New product pipelines under construction as part of IREP project are;

1) Heat traced pipeline for

transportation of plant fuel/heavy fuel oils is being laid from Kochi Refinery to Cochin Port.

2) New high speed diesel and gasoline product pipelines from refinery to Irumpanam terminal.

3) Enhanced capacity utilisation of Cochin-Coimbatore-Karur (CCK) multi product pipeline is also being explored.

All this pipelines will ensure safe and fastest evacuation of products from refinery and will help in reducing road based emissions level in city.

Is it true that BPCL and IOC have joined hands to put a pipeline network from Kochi- Coimbatore-Salem for pumping out LPG from KRL?

Yes, IOCL and BPCL have formed a joint venture to lay 458 kms LPG pipeline from Kochi to Salem via Coimbatore and Erode in Kerala and Tamilnadu. The pre-project activities of project are in progress KRL has the reputation of one of the best safety records in the industry.

Can you please tell us the details of safety aspect at the refinery?

Kochi Refinery has completed 45.91 Million man hours without Lost Time Accidents till Sept’16 which is equivalent to 3924 days. Safety is given paramount importance in refinery and various safety measures like process Hazop study, Risk analysis, utilization of Asset Integrity solutions, time bound inspection and maintenance of plants are carried out for ensuring round the clock safety of refinery.

It is said that on an average 15,000 persons were employed daily inside the refinery campus connected with the capacity expansion. What is your experience of having such a large number of workers in a state like Kerala having the dubious distinction of high levels of labour trouble?

Integrated refinery expansion project (IREP) project has witnessed working of maximum 20,000 workers during peak construction period with average number of 15,000. Such large numbers of workers at site was managed by meticulous planning and using information system solutions so that productivity and discipline can be ensured at site.

A joint Industrial Relation Committee (IRC) comprising of union representatives, contractors, Project Management Consultant and BPCL was formed in July 2013, in presence of both State and Central ministers to deal with labour related issues. The project area was declared a strike free zone in this meeting.

Various facilities are also provided to site workers for taking care of their well being and to ensure productivity at site, some of these are 24/7 medical centre for site workers, residential labour camp inspection with medical team for ensuring proper hygiene condition, incentive scheme based upon worker productivity, Site canteen facility and food facility to all labour in evening hours.

On a long term perspective, what should be the next major milestone in the growth curve of a company like BPCL-KRL?

As part of future plans, we are installing new units for quality upgradation of MS&HSD to meet BS-VI standards. There are also plans to achieve low cost expansion of Refining capacity to 20 MMTPA, Propylene based new petrochemicals and a new Single Point Mooring.

(R Ramachandran is Director (Refineries), BPCL)

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