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More environmentally-friendly fuels

For conversion, IFPEN's research seeks to address three major challenges:

  • converting increasingly heavy crudes;
  • reducing associated CO2 and pollutant emissions;
  • and meeting increasingly stringent specifications.

Natural gas conversion technologies to produce fuel and hydrogen are also the focus of research.


Conversion: increasingly efficient

For the conversion of residues and heavy crudes into fuels and combustibles, IFPEN is continuing to develop hydroconversion processes and catalysts with a view to improving their flexibility and efficiency. This research remains critical in the medium and long terms, since, in the short term, the context of falling oil prices is not conducive to deep conversion.

Research is also being conducted to improve the efficiency of Fluid Catalytic CrackingFCC), the veritable heart of the refinery, covering the pretreatment of FCC feeds, for which a catalyst dedicated to the most refractory distillates was delivered in 2014, and the FCC process itself. The latter is being developed within the FCC Alliance, bringing together IFPEN, its subsidiary Axens, Total and Technip. In 2015, a new cycle of the Alliance began, the objective of which is to develop technologies to render the FCC process more flexible in terms of products (propylene, gasolines and distillates), in order to meet the combined needs of the refining and petrochemicals industries.
                                    FCC Cluster (Fluid Catalytic Cracking)   
                                   Moving pictures on IFPEN YouTube channel      

Lastly, to meet the tightening up of international regulations governing the sulfur content of marine fuels [less than 0.1% in coastal areas of Europe (the so called Emission Control Area – ECA) and expected to be less than 0.5% by 2020 according to the IMO standard], IFPEN owns several refining processes and solutions that can be used to produce bunker fuels meeting regulatory requirements and maintain refinery balance.


Stricter specifications

The tightening up of standards and regulations related to fuels is continuing and being extended on a global level:

  • global application of the specification limiting the sulfur content of gasolines and gas oils to 10 ppm,
  • reduction of the olefin and benzene content of gasolines,
  • announced reduction in the polyaromatic content of gas oils, etc.

Where gasoline production is concerned, IFPEN is notably working on the development of catalysts, along with hydrotreatment processes (such as Prime-G+ for selective desulfurization), paraffin isomerization and reforming processes. In this field, several regenerative reforming and fixed-bed catalysts were developed in 2015, all designed for the Symphony family, marketed by Axens. Boasting numerous industrial references, the Symphony generation of reforming catalysts has proved highly successful, reflecting IFPEN’s capacity to provide solutions adapted to industry’s needs.

In 2015, IFPEN also finalized the development of new packings for reactors used in regenerative catalytic reforming processes. This technology, which will be marketed by Axens in 2016, gives refiners greater flexibility thanks to the increased capacity generated by the distribution and charging of the catalyst.

For gas oil and kerosene production, IFPEN is working to improve desulfurization catalysts and processes, particularly the Prime-D process, to support the needs of industry and keep pace with evolving specifications while reducing its environmental footprint. New process systems are being examined with a view to enhancing their performance while reducing investment costs. In geographic zones where growth in the demand for gas oil is set to remain high while the demand for gasoline falls, such as Europe, for example, refining tools will have to be adapted. To this end, IFPEN is working on several technological solutions. Among them, the PolyFuel® oligomerization process, marketed by Axens, aimed at redressing the gasoline/gas oil balance by re-orienting light olefin cuts from FCC towards the kerosene/distillate pool.

In the field of hydrocracking, two new zeolite catalysts for the hydrocracking of vacuum distillates were developed using IFPEN’s High-Throughput Experimentation (HTE) facilities. By increasing test capacities, this technological platform is being used to rapidly identify ingenious combinations of metals and catalytic cracking sites by rationalizing and increasing experimental capacity. These catalysts, yet another success in Axens’ technology portfolio, significantly improve selectivity towards middle distillates.

                 HTE, a unique approach to optimize the development of new catalysts.

Lastly, in 2015 IFPEN continued to optimize the hydrotreatment catalysts in the Impulse® range. They have been successfully marketed by Axens, with more than 50 references to date.

Read more
 + Research theme > Renewable energies > Producing fuels from biomass
 + Industrial development > Refining-Petrochemicals | Biofuels and green chemistry
 + Vacuum distillates seen under a totally new light, by Marion Courtiade and Thomas Dutriez
 + Gaining a better understanding of the properties of heavy products, by Joëlle Eyssautier, Loïc Barré and Didier Espinat

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Panorama 2016

"Innovation and climate change: role and position of the refining industry"
 > Download the Panorama 2016 technical reports

Vidéo EHD

The high-throughput experimentation - HTE (vidéo on YouTube)

Key figure

150 G$
Estimated total investments in refining facilities dedicated to deep and moderate conversion up to 2035.

Inside a catalyst - video