Naphtha-fed Crackers Benefitted Petrochemical Companies During Recent Oil Crisis

Published By : 30 Jun 2016 | Published By : QYRESEARCH

Naphtha is a generic term used for defining a wide range of highly inflammable liquids in the hydrocarbons family. There are numerous varieties of crude oil sources across the globe, each with a unique composition. There are also many petroleum refineries around the world, each designed to process either only a single type of crude oil or different mixtures of crude oils. It is this individuality of the refineries and the compositions of crude oils that lead to a variety of naphtha. And so, naphtha cannot be specifically defined. Rather, it can be called an umbrella term used for a mixture of hydrocarbons.

Naphtha is produced as the first petroleum byproduct during the distillation of crude oil. The substance is subsequently upgraded to make a number of components of gasoline.  Before naphtha is upgraded, it is called straight-run or virgin naphtha, which is the major source of naphtha in nearly all petroleum refineries.

Virgin naphtha is often upgraded into two streams: 
Light or paraffinic naphtha. This category of naphtha is rich in olefins and so, is widely used for the production of polyolefin and other olefin compounds. It typically contain products with 5-6 carbon atoms in the molecular structure and boil between 30 degree Celsius and 90 degree Celsius. 

Heavy naphtha or aromatic naphtha.  This category of naphtha is mainly used for producing aromatic compounds. It typically contains products with 6-12 carbon atoms in their molecular structure and boil between 90 degree Celsius and 200 degree Celsius.

Naphtha is primarily used as a feedstock for producing petrochemicals such as high octane gasoline, ethylene and propylene.  It is also used for the catalytic reformation of gasoline blending stock and the BTX (benzene, toluene and xylenes) of hydrocarbons. In the recent oil crisis, though petrochemical companies suffered owing to a sharp increase in inventories, the reduction in oil prices gave an advantage to companies that used naphtha for feeding the steam crackers as compared to companies whose plants were primarily gas fed.

Though the crude oil market is progressing towards a steady growth dynamics as compared to the past few years, it may be still a few years until the supply slump and the global demand come to terms with each other. Until then, naphtha users will continue to enjoy a competitive edge over petrochemical companies whose plants are gas fed.

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