Hydrogen is an expensive raw material. Costs of high purity H2 can reach prices in the range of €1,500/ton. Several trends in oil industry are leading to an increased demand for H2 in refineries and petrochemical sites. Stricter legislations on sulfur content in fuels increases the need for hydroprocessing. Secondly, the move to processing of heavier crude oils and the reduced market for heavy fuel oils is forcing greater use of hydrocracking for upgrading. At the same time, regulations on gasoline aromatic composition and low gasoline demand are constraining reformer operation which are the traditional sources of H2 in refineries.
A typical H2 network in a refinery is made of Headers (at different pressures and/or purities) where Suppliers send H2 and from where Consumers take H2. On the network there could be as well PSA, membranes and/or other purifiers. There are as well connections with the Fuel Gas Network where headers relief hydrogen for pressure control.
An existing H2 network should be operated in a flexible way adapting to the operational changes, always ensuring the H2 cost to the refinery is minimized but without compromising the refinery planned operations plan or the hydroprocessing catalysts life.
Inprocess has developed a simulation based Hydrogen Network Management Tool that can suggest continuously optimal ways of operating the network. Such a tool is based on the rigorous simulation of the network that is accessed through a friendly GUI, developed on-purpose of each network configuration. The network model must represent the actual connectivity of the network, the production of H2 as well as its consumption (through hydroprocessing unit models). The simulation model is connected with the Plant Database System in order to be able to continuously update with current operating variables