Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) conducts research and
development in chemical and refining process technologies for oil companies, equipment
manufacturers, commodity production groups, and governmental agencies. Institute
scientists use state-of-the-art methods and develop new, unique procedures to solve
problems. Specialists in process design, kinetics, and thermodynamics are augmented by
multidisciplinary capabilities in corrosion, vibration, structures, gas flow measurement,
and specialty technical disciplines, such as risk assessment, nondestructive testing, and
environmental engineering. Process technology capabilities include a Fuels Processing
Center with pilot plants capable of producing drum quantities, custom laboratory-scale
pilot plants, and analytical support to provide quantitative and qualitative analyses.
Engineering capabilities include:
- Process selection and design
- Process simulation
- Unit operations sizing
- Troubleshooting unique operations
- Pilot plant development
- Flow sheet evaluation
- Reference/candidate fuel production
- Crude oil assays
- Waste stream evaluations
- Laboratory analyses
SwRI's Fuels Processing Center incorporates many
services, safety features, and outside facilities for storage, blending, and bulk liquid
handling. The 5,000- and 10,000-gallon tanks are equipped for temperature-controlled
blending and storage.
Fuels Processing Center
Clients can avoid costly process upsets when trying new
feedstocks or conditions by using the Institute pilot plants to produce special or new
fuels. The Institute abides by secrecy and nonanalysis agreements, and results are free of
vendor bias. Flexible program organization accommodates highly complex tasks, on various
time scales and in coordination with the client. Projects range from one-time problem
solving to long-term product development solutions. Pilot-scale production capabilities
- Vacuum distillation
- Catalytic hydrogenation
- Wax crystal separation
- Centrifugal separation
- Column adsorption
- Catalytic reforming
- Supercritical water processing
- Wiped film evaporation
- Batch distillation
- Continuous fractionation
- Custom setups
This block diagram of the Institute's hydrotreating
pilot plant emphasizes special features, such as bottoms recycle and hydrogen recycle,
that enhance its realism and accuracy. Broken lines depict fully automated data collection
and computer control.
Reforming and hydrocracking are readily accomplished
in our hydrogenation pilot plant. Its versatile design and varied processing capabilities
permit operation at a wide range of flow rates, temperatures, and pressures.
Custom Pilot Plants
SwRI engineers and scientists identify and alter the
composition of hydrocarbons using laboratory-, bench-, and pilot-scale processing
equipment. Projects include improvement, new process development, and process parameter
development. Institute laboratories are equipped to conduct:
- Column separations
- Physical separations
Recent studies include:
- Gas-phase sulfur recovery
- Oxidation of sour water streams
- Hydrogenation of petroleum products
- Optimization of ethanol fractionation column
- Costs of converting coal to methanol
- Petroleum feedstock distillations
- Aqueous sulfur dioxide oxidation
- Simulations of LNG weathering
- Processing sour water streams
- Trial oxidations of mill sludge
- Chlorofluorocarbon destruction
SwRI begins many projects with custom bench-scale
testing. This vacuum fractionation apparatus removes solvent from a feedstock with minimal
heating of the sample.
SwRI designed and built this bench-scale unit to study
the pyrolytic destruction of chlorofluorocarbons. It features independent flow controls
for fuel, oxidizer, and gas.
Project sponsors include industry, industrial associations,
federal, state, and foreign governments, and our own internal research program. Results
remain proprietary for industrial projects, while public agency project results are
published in scientific and engineering journals.
Special tests and services available include:
- Product and feedstock blending
- Wastewater analysis and cleanup
- Simulated GC to prep-scale distillations
- Coal solids and liquids testing
- Flame chemistry and kinetics
- Supercritical water waste oxidation
- Refinery products testing
- Wax testing
- Pilot plant design and construction
- Specialty fuel production
This supercritical processing plant breaks down
hazardous wastes into carbon dioxide and simple acids using water oxidation. The
continuous flow reactor completely destroys waste in 5 to 60 minutes, depending on the
complexity of the waste.
We conduct pilot-scale tests on a wide variety of
feedstocks and products. In this application, we used cobalt-molybdenum catalyst material
to remove sulfur from dark, light-cycle oil. The processed product is clear and within the
intended product specifications.
This column/stripper allows simultaneous distillation
and stripping of hydrotreated products and can operate in vacuum and atmospheric
Wiped film evaporation is a preferred distillation
method for hard-to-separate or heat-sensitive mixtures. SwRI built this pilot plant around
a Pfaudler evaporator adding all the ancillary equipment to continuously make
To support process technology research, the Institute has
extensive experience in the set up and development of ASTM and special test methods and
procedures, as well as the entire array of ASTM and other standard tests.
SwRI laboratories are equipped with a range of instrumentation,
including infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light spectrographs and with an elemental
analyzer, which tests microgram samples of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen.
SwRI conducts all types of distillations and
separations. This graph depicts the true boiling points of seven fractions of a diesel
fuel compared with the parent feedstock.
In addition to many standard ultraviolet
spectrophotometric techniques, the Institute offers a unique method that quickly
determines the aromatic content of fuels. The SwRI-developed procedure can replace the
slower ASTM D 1319 Fluorescent Indicator Absorbance (FIA) and other methods of
establishing hydrocarbon types.
Mass spectral analysis capabilities include a quadrupole mass
spectrometer coupled to a capillary gas chromatograph inlet system with an integrated
all-glass batch inlet for ASTM D2425 and other analyses of hydrocarbon fuels. A
controller/workstation provides high-speed data acquisition at scan rates of more than
1,500 AMU/sec. An effective library and search system in the workstation contains 38,791
compounds with support from an 80,000-compound library on a mainframe computer.
The Institute's high-temperature gas chromatograph, with
maximum temperatures of 500 degrees C, permits analyses of high-molecular-weight
hydrocarbons up to carbon number 120.
Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) determines the
decomposition temperature for lubricants, engine deposits, solid fuels (e.g., coal and
coke), intake system deposits, and pure compounds. Institute capabilities allow the
analysis of samples between 5 mg to 200 mg at temperatures up to 1,200°C. Inset is a
close-up, and end-on view of TGA decomposition analysis taking place.
With a staff of experienced refinery and process engineers,
Southwest Research Institute understands the challenges facing the hydrocarbon processing
industryto meet product quality and plant environmental regulations while
maintaining profitability. We offer a wide range of technical alternativesfrom
solving specific problems to conducting multi-level process and fuel development programs.
Our contracting flexibility and handling of proprietary information allow us to serve as
your in-house lab, so you can apply additional expertise to a job, but only when it is
needed. Whatever your area of interestreformulated fuels, process development,
reference fuel processing, batch evaluations, environmental compliance, among
otherswe look forward to meeting your challenges and solving your problems.
This brochure was published in October 1993. For more information
about hydrocarbon processing, contact Dr. Jimell Erwin, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division, Southwest
Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510, Phone (210)
522-2389, Fax (210) 522-5720.
and Chemical Engineering Brochures
SwRI Technical Divisions