Mini-Refineries or modular mini-refineries are nowadays a fast and relatively simple solution to remote or regional isolated areas where traditional refineries are long expensive term projects. From simple diesel production units to more sophisticated refineries with the full range of fuel products, mini refineries are increasingly becoming a flexible and cost-effective supply option for crude producers in remote regions or areas where the feedstock is not reliable. This is particularly where there is a need to adapt rapidly to meet local demand. Relatively low capital cost, speed and ease of construction are key advantages of a modular mini-refinery.
The smallest new refinery in the US, though, is the 20,000 bpd refinery in North Dakota, which began operations in May this year at a reported cost of $350 million. The US Congressional Research Service reports that there as many as 20 other refining projects (with a total capacity of more than 900,000 bpd – an average of 45,000 bpd per refinery) that are either proposed, or are in various stages of development.
The overall economics or viability of a refinery depends on the interaction of three key elements: the choice of crude oil used or crude slate; the complexity of the refining equipment or refinery configuration; and the desired type and quality of products produced or product slate. Crude Slate: Crude oil is the primary input into the petroleum refining industry. See matrix below
Even for some oil exporting countries, the transportation costs associated with moving crude oil from the oil fields to the consuming regions and the greater choice of crude qualities make it more economic for distant refineries to use imported crude oil. Similar factors have led to the development of modular mini refineries in crude producing regions. Modular mini-refineries can be located close to the source of the crude to minimize crude logistics and distribution cost. This approach has been successfully applied in such locations as: Kurdistan, Indonesia, West Africa and West Siberia.