Balzac Refinery

By Deborah James,2014-02-07 00:28
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Balzac Refinery

Balzac Refinery

    The Shell Balzac Refinery is the most recent full conversion grass roots refinery built in North America. The refinery uses current refining technology to manufacture a full range of fuels including unleaded gasoline, low sulfur diesel, and jet fuel. The refinery enjoyed an excellent operating record in Canada due to its low cost of operation, good safety record, and its environmental design.


    Before 1973, crude oil was inexpensive and refinery margins tended to be large. Refineries were built without any special attention to efficiency because the impact of inefficiencies on the ability of the refinery to operate profitably was small. This allowed the designer considerable flexibility when he laid out his plant.

    After the crude price increases of the 1970’s designs changed however as the cost of crude became a much larger part of the operating cost of a refinery. Since the margin received on product did not increase as crude price increased, it forced the refiner and engineering companies who designed refineries to review design standards to determine if there were ways to improve the efficiency of the plant and thereby deliver more product with less costly processes.

    One area of efficiency that was identified was the reuse of waste heat within the plant so that the amount of gas or fuel oil which was used in fueling the plant was reduced. Other techniques were the improvement in distillation control and the addition of many recycle loops which allowed more sensitive temperature control and heating or cooling so that operational efficiency could be improved.

Design and Construction

    The initial design of the refinery was done by UOP Inc, one of the world’s largest refining technology vendors. UOP prepared a “Schedule A” design package for

    each of the major units for a 20,000 BPD plant. UOP later redesigned the plant to increase its capacity to 30,000 BPD. During this design phase, UOP assumed the implementation of state of the art control systems and they incorporated as many energy efficiency features as could be justified in a 30,000 BPD plant. This included a fully integrated heat recovery system in the crude unit, full trap out trays in the crude tower, and a hot oil system in the reforming unit to allow heat recovery and reduced stack temperature.

    When the “Schedule A” package was complete, the detailed design was undertaken by a number of recognized Canadian Engineering Companies, all of which were certified to provide engineering services in the province of Alberta, Canada see Table 1 for a list of engineering companies and their areas of responsibility.

    Each engineering company developed the detailed design for the units in their area of responsibility and provided the construction drawings for that area. Several of the engineering companies with specialized design capability were also responsible for designing the interconnecting areas or processes that used common technology. Throughout the detailed design exercise, the designers worked to integrate the unit technologies to improve plant efficiencies. For this reason the crude and vacuum unit were combined into one area so the heat exchange systems could integrate the energy streams for the two areas, and other areas like the Hydrotreating and Platforming areas were integrated to minimize the amount of high pressure hydrogen piping and the extent of the area which handled the relatively high pressures.

    During the design phase, technical representatives from the international insurance industry were continually involved in the design decisions in order to ensure that the plant met all of their risk criteria. As a result of their reviews, unit spacing was modified to reflect their experience in other facilities. The fire water distribution system was also modified to meet their requirements for emergency response and certain aspects of the control system were moved to ensure that they were not exposed to hazardous conditions.

    Construction of the refinery in Canada was done by several construction companies using the detailed designs provided by the Engineering Companies. Overall construction coordination was done by Turbo Resources Ltd., the owner of the refinery.

    Through all phases of the conceptual design, detailed design, and field construction all applicable North American and Canadian standards were observed. This included design standards, compliance with environmental standards, certification of workers (particularly welders), and an appropriate quality assurance program that ensured that the field workmanship actually complied with the regulated standards. All pressure vessel designs were also government certified. Where industry standards were more restrictive than government standards, for example in many cases the API standards are more strict and more specific than those required by Canadian law, both the government and the industry standards were observed.

Operation and Maintenance

    Turbo Resources Ltd., the refinery owner, made periodic changes to the process as experience was gained from the plant operation. Turbo had a licenced engineering group who designed all changes and the company also had a licence to practice engineering, allowing it to certify any redesign activities.

    In 1989 and 1990, Turbo completed a modernization and debottlenecking of the refinery to improve the economics of operation and to allow for the production of unleaded gasoline. The basic design of the modifications on the Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit and the Gasoline Isomerization Unit were again both done by UOP Inc. The engineering for the other unit modifications to achieve integration of the new technologies was done either by Turbo’s in-house engineers, or by Quantel,

    a certified engineering contractor.

Shutdown and Preservation

    After shutdown of the refinery in 1992, the plant was untouched until the commencement of removal of equipment in 2000. During that period the equipment was maintained in good condition by Shell Canada with inhibiting oils being kept in rotating equipment, and a nitrogen purge being kept in vessels and exchangers. Pumps and compressors were also rotated each month to ensure that their operability was maintained.

    Today the technologies used in the refinery are still under license to UOP and they consist of technologies that are still common in refineries throughout the world. The standards used to construct, modify, and maintain the refinery reflect the normal North American standards and are summarized in UOP Standard Project Number 8689 and in the Turbo Resources Limited Southern Alberta Refinery General Specifications Manual.

    The detailed drawings used for construction and modification of the refinery reflect the as-built plant. These drawings all show the engineering stamp of the appropriate engineering house for both the original drawing and any modifications. In addition to this, vendor drawings for all major pieces of equipment are available. These drawings carry the manufacturer’s certification where appropriate and records of all of the equipment registrations are included in the equipment data books.

    Table 1

    Detailed Design Engineering Companies

    Engineering Company Area of Responsibility

DPH Engineers and Constructors Crude Unit, Amine and Gas Treating

    CE Crest Fluid Catalytic Cracking, Gas Concentration,

    Catalytic Condensation

    Delta Engineering Naphtha Hydrotreating, Platforming,

    Distillate Hydrotreating

    Proforce PDA Unit

    RTM Engineering Utilities, Offsites

    Winkler Howard Electrical

    UOP Equitec Penex Unit


    A fully intragrated refinery, built in 1981. The refinery was then revamped in 1989, which included modernization for residual processing capacities with catalyst cooling, lift gas technologies and closed couple cyclones.

    A UOP Penex unit was also added in 1989 and changes were made to also hydrotreat the Light Straight Run product.

    The refinery was purchased and dismantled by General Oil in the year 2000. After dismantling further modernization has also been completed and includes the following:

Honeywell TDC 2000 System. This system has been upgraded to a Plantscape

    design. All configuration and operating information was transferred and the system tested before packaging.

    PLC Modicon System. The original system was a Modicon 584 system that was upgraded by Schneider Modicon Corporation. All operating information was transferred to the new system.

    All basic engineering work has been completed by Thermon Corporation for the redesign of the complete plant electrical heat tracing system.

    Over three hundred pumps have been reconditioned with new parts and mechanical seals where required. 52 of these pumps have also been redesigned to include double mechanical seal systems. These systems have been engineered and designed by Flowserve and include pressure pot seal release systems.

Compressors and main air blower have been reconditioned.

    The basic engineering design has been completed by Nijhuis Water Technology Corporation on a modern design waste water treatment plant to compliment the estimated treatment requirements of the refinery.

    A modern, skid designed, 35,000 ton per day sulphur plant has been designed and built by Propak Systems, Canada. This is a 3 stage Claus SRU process with provisions provided for a future Super Claus fourth stage reactor.

    All columns and vessels have been sand blasted to 2.5A Specification, painted with a 5 year warranty Hempel paint and inspected.

Valves and instrumentation have been tested and refurbished.

    A total of 29 tanks with a capacity of 234,000 tons have been purchased and are ready for construction.

    Two 16 Mega Watt electrical high voltage transformers and all necessary instrumentation have been purchased and are ready for installation.

    The very detailed refinery documentation includes, match marking drawings and detailed photo documentation.

    Civil engineering has been completed and is available, if applicable to the new refinery site.

Basic Information Package:

    This information briefly describes the refinery process equipment and its capabilities.

    The refinery is a fully integrated plant, comprised of several major process units, all interconnected via the central computerized control system. Each unit includes a large number of vessels and other equipment.

Crude Processing and Vacuum Units - 30,000 B.P.D.

    Crude oil contains all of the components necessary to make any petroleum product. The crude and vacuum units separate crude oil into various components for further processing. Crude oil is heated in a system of heat exchangers and a furnace and introduced to a tower where the different components, which have different boiling ranges, are separated by fractional distillation. The products from this unit include (from top to bottom of the tower).

    Tower overheads which go on to butane/propane recovery and the

    refinery fuel system.

     Naphtha which goes on to hydrotreating and fuel oil production.

     Kerosene which goes to Merox treating and jet fuel production.