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Operating the fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) in afterburning conditions can increase the regenerator temperatures above the metallurgical design leading to mechanical failures of the cyclones and plenum chamber. This paper presents the methodology applied in a commercial FCCU to investigate the afterburning causes and the technical solutions that can be implemented to reduce the afterburning. Thus, by evaluating the regenerator temperature profile, regenerator as-build design, and the internals mechanical status, it was concluded that the main cause of afterburning was the non-uniform distribution and mixing of air and catalyst. The industrial results showed that optimizing the catalyst bed level, stripping steam, reaction temperature, and equilibrium catalyst (e-cat) activity reduced the afterburning by 39%. Other process parameters such as feed preheat temperature, slurry recycling, and excess oxygen did not significantly influence afterburning because of air and catalyst maldistribution. Revamping the regenerator to assure a symmetrical layout of cyclones reduced the afterburning by 86%, increased the fines retention in FCCU inventory, and provided a better regeneration of the spent e-cat. The reduction of operating temperatures at around 701°C removed the risk of catalyst thermal deactivation, and therefore the e-cat activity was increased by 10.2 wt.%.
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