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Refino de última generación

New generation refinery

The largest industrial investment in the history of Spain has made the refinery in Cartagena one of the most modern and with the greatest conversion capacity in the world. The extension works on the complex will allow production to be increased to 220,000 barrels of crude oil per day and to supply diesel and kerosene to a Spanish market in shortage. It also guarantees the future of the industrial plant, doubling its number of employees.
Three years of work and a more than 3,000 million euros investment have adapted Repsol’s refinery in Cartagena to the new demands of the refinery system in Spain, making it more competitive, in terms of production – now focused on medium distillates, efficiency – becoming a European reference in health and safety and the environment; and quality, creating first level fuels with a minimum impact on the surroundings” explains José Luque, Director of the Complex.

A wider diet of crude oils

Refino de última generación
The extension of the industrial complex in Cartagena, in operation since the end of 2011, represents a drastic change in the facilities’ scale and complexity. The commissioning of 30 new units will double the refinery’s distillation capacity and reach a conversion level of more than 90%.
“The Cartagena refinery had a very simple production scheme, which only admitted rare and expensive ‘sweet’ crudes. Now, our technology accepts almost any crude and transforms it into ‘noble’ top quality and clean fuels” continues José Luque. A refinery’s conversion level is what determines its degree of technological sophistication as well as its profitability. The higher its conversion level, the higher the margin for converting different quality crude oils into higher value end products.
The new units increase Cartagena’s capacity to refine heavy crude oils from 6% to 70%. This will have an impact on profit margins as well as on the security of the supply, because heavy crudes will be a decisive source of hydrocarbons in coming years. According to the International Energy Agency, this type of crude represents 15% of the world’s oil resources.
In a business where squeezing the most out of the last drop of crude oil is essential “improving the refinery scheme, based since the extension on delayed coking and hydrocracking, provides the plant with a great conversion capacity”. The new installations allow surpluses generated in the various refining processes to be transformed into commercial products, so that “we use practically all the raw material from each barrel”.

Cleaner and more efficient refining

Despite the fact that the refinery has doubled its production capacity, the implemented technology has reduced emissions in several greenhouse gases. The figures per processed tonne have decreased by 64% for nitrogen oxides (NOx), 68% for sulphur dioxide (SO2), and 80% for Particles also achieving “a very positive impact on the overall balance of CO2 emissions”, adds Luque.
Also, “the new sulphur recovery plants are designed to eliminate 99.5% of this compound, exceeding administrative requirements”. This aspect is increasingly important because currently extracted oil has an increasing amount of sulphur and desulphurisation units prevent motor combustion of this compound from producing SO2 emissions.
The new installations also have energy recovery systems such as cogeneration plants or systems that use the residual heat from boilers to produce the steam required by other industrial processes. Natural gas has also replaced fuel oil as the main source of energy, which contributes to reducing emissions into the atmosphere.
The refinery increases its capacity to produce these medium distillates by 4.5 million tonnes per year, helping to reduce Spanish imports of these fuels by 30%

Responding to a diesel vehicle fleet

Changes in demand have been the drivers of Cartagena’s transformation. Its former refinery scheme, with a high production of fuel oil and gasoline, was no longer competitive. With the new facilities, the refinery will focus its production capacity on obtaining medium distillates, i.e. diesel and kerosene.
“The reason is to respond to the national market’s shortage in diesel and kerosene. Our vehicle fleet runs on diesel, a product for which the country imports about one third of what it consumes” explains Luque. Following the extension, the refinery increases its capacity to produce these medium distillates by 4.5 million tonnes per year, helping to reduce Spanish imports of these fuels by 30%.
Spain’s process of converting its vehicle fleet to diesel is an ongoing trend. According to the latest data of the Spanish Road Transport Authority (DGT), in 2010 seven out of every ten registered vehicles ran on diesel, currently representing more than half the number of private vehicles on the roads. Twenty years ago, it was just 10%.
Also in response to this demand for medium distillates a new pipeline has been built, which runs for 360 kilometres between the refinery in Cartagena and Repsol’s industrial complex in Puertollano. The pipeline transports kerosene and diesel “to the market in Spain with the highest consumption and greatest shortage in these products, which is the centre of the country, increasing the efficiency of transporting a large
The refinery represents 20% of industrial employment in this region of Murcia. Jobs induced by its activity would be in the region of 8,000

Positive impact on employment

About 22,000 people have worked on the extension works, which have lasted three years. Now that they are finished, the activity generated by the new units “not only guarantees the more than 800 jobs that existed prior to the extension – and which would have been lost without it – but doubles them”. Currently, the Cartagena refinery generates 800 direct jobs and another 800 in auxiliary companies.
The refinery represents 20% of industrial employment in this region of Murcia and according to a study carried out by the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, “jobs induced by our activity would be in the region of 8,000”. The consolidation of this industrial pole also has the effect of attracting other companies “which are supplied with our products. One example of this is the nearby installation of a third generation lubricants plant in Valle de Escombreras, next to the refinery”.
The extension of the industrial complex will also represent a 65% increase in Repsol’s port traffic. The company has eight moorings in the port of Cartagena which can receive petrol tankers with a capacity to carry up to 2 million barrels of crude oil in their holds.
To conclude, Jose Luque highlights the fact that the investment for completing the works in Cartagena has been maintained in a situation of economic crisis, in response to “the company’s commitment to the reality of the surroundings in which it operates, and to a philosophy of reinvesting in technological progress”.
Last updated: September 2013