IsoTherming® Technology for Mild Hydrocracking

What is it?
Mild hydrocracking (MHC) is catalytic cracking in the presence of hydrogen and operating at 'mild' hydrogen partial pressures (in comparison to conventional hydrocracking). Unlike hydrotreating where hydrogen is used to break C-S and C-N bonds, mild hydrocracking uses hydrogen to break C-C bonds.

VGO (FCC Feed) Mild Hydrocracking
When used upstream of the refinery FCC, MHC 'provides a profitable minimum-investment route to achieve incremental vacuum gas oil (VGO) conversion while producing high quality, low-sulfur fuels.' (Oil & Gas Journal online, June 2002) 

MHC upstream of the FCC:

  • Reduces the FCC feed sulfur, often eliminating the need for FCC gasoline post-treating
  • Lowers the basic nitrogen and metal content of the FCC feed, improving FCC catalyst activity, cycle length and gasoline yield
  • Converts heavy hydrocarbons to distillate fuels, helping to optimize the refinery product slate and debottleneck FCC operations

LCO (FCC Product) Mild Hydrocracking
When used downstream of the refinery FCC, MHC upgrades light cycle oil (LCO), a product typically destined for fuel oil, and converts it to more profitable low or ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD).

MHC downstream of the FCC:

  • Increases the refinery profitability by converting a low value product into a high value product

Illustrating the unique advantage IsoTherming® Hydroprocessing Technology brings to the marketplace is upgrading of FCC light cycle oil (LCO) applications. A niche market has developed for mild hydrocracking of LCO as it takes a product typically destined for fuel oil and converts it to a more profitable table, low-sulphur (50 ppm) or ultra-low Sulphur diesel product (10 ppm sulphur or less). DuPont Sustainable Solutions has licensed five IsoTherming® units in Asia designed to process and upgrade a 100% LCO feed. The liquid-full IsoTherming® reactor system and the use of liquid recycle unique to IsoTherming® Technology limits the temperature rise across the reactor to minimize undesirable side reactions. IsoTherming® Technology also recovers the significant heat release associated with LCO aromatic saturation and recycles this energy to the feed, thereby minimizing feed heater fuel gas requirements and reducing unit operating costs.

The first IsoTherming® Mild Hydrocracking unit designed specifically for 100% LCO started up in 2011. This unit was designed for a feed with a density of approximately 940kg/m3 and a feed sulphur content of 4125 wppm. Using one IsoTherming® reactor consisting of three catalyst beds and a catalyst scheme designed for severe distillate hydrotreating and mild hydrocracking, this refiner has consistently seen sulphur conversion levels of 99% since startup and low sulphur diesel product sulphur well below the 50 wppm specification, with a typical range of 5 to 20 wppm.

The ability to upgrade LCO to low-sulphur diesel for commercial sale has contributed greatly to the overall economic return for this FCC complex.

What does it look like?








Location, Year of Startup, Capacity (BPSD / M3/HR), Project Scope, Feed Type, Status
China, 2011, 8,000 / 53, Grassroots Mild Hydrocracker, LCO, Operational
China, TBA, 6,026 / 40, Grassroots Mild Hydrocracker, LCO, Detailed Engineering
China, TBA, 6,026 / 40, Grassroots Mild Hydrocracker, LCO, Basic Engineering
USA, 2009, 15,000 / 99, Grassroots Mild Hydrocracker, VGO & BW, Operational
USA, 2009, 15,000 / 99, Grassroots Mild Hydrocracker, VGO & DAO, Operational