- The VCC process is a residue hydrogenation process that converts vacuum residue, the heaviest intermediary product in the refinery, into lighter, more valuable products.
- The process can also be used in the production of syncrudes, from very heavy crude oils, or in coal to liquid conversion.
- The process was developed by German company Veba
- Currently most refineries use a Delayed Coker or Flexicoking to upgrade their heavy residues. While coking effectively breaks up heavy hydrocarbons by removing carbon, the VCC reactor achieves a similar result by adding hydrogen
- In the VCC process, vacuum residue is fed into a slurry phase reactor at 200 bar, along with an additive that prevents foaming
- Hydrogen gas is bubbled through the slurry mixture from below.
- Following the slurry reactor, a separator vessel removes unconverted material plus the additive, while the lighter products pass on to a fixed-bed catalytic hydrotreatment vessel. Here the hydrogen levels are 'topped up' in order to remove nitrogen and sulphur and meet clean fuel specifications.
- In this process the vacuum residue conversion rate is 95 per cent for versus a little over 70 per cent for Coking.
- The liquid yield is much higher, at above 100 per cent, thanks to the addition of hydrogen, whereas a coker can only manage below 80 per cent.
- Compared to an Ebullated Hydrocracker the slurry phase reactor is simpler and less prone to fouling.
- The process does not use particularly sensitive catalysts which would require an upstream desulphurisation unit. This means that even heaviest residues can be processed.
- Between 1950 and 1964 the VCC process was commercially applied for residual oil conversion.
- Since 1988 the former coal liquefaction demonstration plant in Bottrop (Germany) is processing vacuum residues from crude distillation and visbreaker operation with additional amounts of plastics from municipal wastes and chlorinated organic compounds.
- Until now there has been just one VCC plant in the world. This 3500 barrels per day demonstration unit was built in the 1980s at what is now the BP-operated Gelsenkirchen refinery in Germany. It was subsequently shut down in 2000 due to unfavourable economic conditions at the time. BP is now working on restarting the unit.
- 2012 - KBR Awarded VCC License and Basic Engineering Package for TAIF Group's Nizhnekamsk Refinery, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia
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- KBR Awarded VCC License and Basic Engineering Package for TAIF Group's Refinery at Nizhnikamsk, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia