Wadha Al-Khateeb, Deputy CEO of Mina Abdullah Refinery, speaks during the celebration

By Nawara Fattahova

KUWAIT: The Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) celebrated the commissioning of crude oil distillation unit no 111 at Mina Abdullah refinery yesterday. This key unit for KNPC and the Kuwaiti oil sector is the largest crude distillation unit in Kuwait, with a refining capacity of 264,000 bpd. It also includes one of the largest air distillation towers and the largest hydrogen production unit in the world.

Wadha Al-Khateeb, Deputy CEO of Mina Abdullah refinery (MAB) said operation of the crude distillation unit (CDU) 111 of the Clean Fuels project (CFP) is considered the gateway to the CFP of MAB refinery, which in turn represents a giant quantum leap in Kuwait's refining industry.

"By commissioning unit 111, KNPC moves ahead with the implementation of the KPC strategy to raise the refining capacity in Kuwait to 1.6 million bpd of high-quality petroleum products that are in line with the highest global stipulations and standards. This will open up new global markets for our company and boost Kuwait's position as a world leader in oil production," Khateeb said during a press conference held yesterday.

The successful operation of the unit comes in light of the current critical circumstances the whole world is experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "We are very proud of our competent teams that played a key role in today's historic success. This occasion is the culmination of over two years of tremendous efforts in testing and operating a number of support units and systems which were necessary for the safe operation of this unit. Our national cadres were able to challenge these conditions, overcome difficulties, operate and equip more than 11 plants and systems that had to be operated up to the CDU 111 commissioning," she added.

The project has paved the way to implement state-of-the-art technology and equipment in order to increase the refinery's ability to produce high-quality products that are compatible with international market conditions, while maintaining the highest levels of efficiency and operational flexibility through observing safety and environmental standards and requirements.

"MAB refinery is ranked third on the world refinery complexity index, which reflects the highest category in sophistication and diversity of process units in terms of technology, capacity and yielding more value-added per barrel of oil," she further said.

In order to ensure the highest degree of integration and economically feasible operation, the CFP units were tied-in with existing ones at the refinery. "The departments within Mina Abdullah refinery worked side by side to complete the necessary tie-ins between more than five processing units at the current MAB refinery and its depots at Mina Abdullah and Shuaiba to pump crude oil to the unit and receive, refine and produce new products," stressed Khateeb.

This work required efforts by nearly 400 male and female national cadres from various departments. "It has been with careful planning by the technical services department, supervision by the quality assurance department, coordination by MAB operations department, equipment, machinery and lines by the maintenance department, and monitoring of safety and environmental standards by the health, safety and environment department.

The refinery has adopted the latest technology in operating the unit, such as thermal cameras for early detection of any leaks that may occur during operation to protect workers, the environment and our facility," she concluded.

Officials attending the commissioning ceremony

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Deputy CEO Projects Abdullah Al-Ajmi noted that despite the critical circumstances that the whole world is experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which had repercussions and impact on the activities of all companies and institutions, Kuwait National Petroleum Co has taken a decision to continue the completion and operation of its production units and maintain the continuity of executing its mega projects.

The new CDU 111 will generate high quality products like LPG, kerosene, diesel and others. "The end result will be that top-quality products in world will be manufactured in Kuwait. It will open new markets for selling refined products of Kuwait. The objective is to approach the international market. Also, these projects will provide new jobs for young Kuwaitis and business opportunity for various contractors in the next phase for maintenance and services," he told Kuwait Times.

CFP Commissioning Manager Ali Al-Ajmi said the new CDU 111 is designed to process 264,000 bpd of Kuwait Export Crude (KEC) using the latest technology that fractionates KEC into the petrochemical categories of naphtha, kerosene, light diesel, heavy diesel and atmospheric residue. Naphtha and kerosene are final products, whereas light diesel, heavy diesel and atmospheric residue are intermediate products that require further treatment.

"The Clean Fuels Project will also allow a major modernization/expansion of MAB to increase the total refining capacity from 270,000 bpd up to 454,000 bpd while maintaining high safety and environmental standards, and in line with the strategic directives of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. The conversion capacity of crude oil into higher value products will be increased by processing the atmospheric residue using additional hi-tech conversion units in order to meet global market specifications," he added.

"Upon commissioning the new CDU 111 at MAB refinery, it became the largest single crude processing unit (264,000 bpd) in Kuwait, compared to Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery which has a refining capacity of 200,000 bpd as well as the CDU of KIPIC with 210,000 bpd respectively. MAB currently has two distillation units - CDU 01 and CDU 11 with a capacity of 80,000 and 190,000 bpd of KEC crude respectively," noted Ajmi.

The new CDU 111 will operate with a capacity of 264,000 bpd. "As part of CFP, work on unit 01 will be suspended and the refinery will continue operating the units - CDU 11 and CDU 111 -with a total capacity of 454,000 barrels per stream day (kbpsd) of KEC crude. The execution of the project has reached its final stages. The new CDU 111 as well as the hydrogen production unit (HPU) have been successfully commissioned. Preparations are underway to prepare the remaining units as per the operation plan during the coming months," he explained.

"The project mainly aims to enhance the quality of Kuwait petroleum products in line with international environmental specifications, boost Kuwait's competitiveness in world markets and open new markets for Kuwaiti products. Advanced protection systems have been installed to limit the impact on Kuwait's environment," concluded Ajmi.