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Upgrade project of the refining complex | Portugal 

Projecto de conversão das refinarias

In order to optimise and maximise the capacity utilisation of its refining complex, namely diesel production, Galp Energia began in 2008 and concluded in the end of 2012, the technological upgrade of its Sines and Matosinhos refineries

The upgrade project aimed to adjust the production profile to the needs of the Iberian market, by maximising the annual production of diesel and by reducing the production of fuel oil, depending on the crude diet.


The increased use of heavy crude oil, which is usually available on the market at lower prices, reduces raw material costs.


The conversion of fuel oil to diesel is imperative as demand is expected to shift lastingly from gasoline to diesel (as the market becomes increasingly diesel-driven) and diesel prices exceed fuel oil prices in international markets. In addition, the demand for fuel oil is bound to fall because it is less environmentally friendly.


The implementation of the upgrade project enabled Galp Energia to increase the complexity of its refining system, increasing the Nelson complexity index from the previous 9.4 to 10.7 at the Matosinhos refinery, and from 6.3 to 7.7 at the Sines refinery.


When completed, the upgrade project involved a total investment of €1.4 billion, from which 75% was allocated to the Sines refinery and 25% to the Matosinhos refinery. The upgrade project  was designed to reduce imports of diesel, naphtha and propane and to add more value to Galp Energia’s production. The procedural reconfiguration has, on the one hand, secured the operational complementarity of both refineries and created a fully integrated refining system with product exchange within the two complexes  and, on the other hand, has enabled greater flexibility of the facilities, allowing for adjustments to the production profiles for a faster response to the changes in the demand for refined products.

Galp Energia's refining system after the upgrade project

The upgrade project at the Matosinhos refinery began its construction phase in December 2008 and was concluded in 2011. The project consisted of the construction of a new vacuum distillation unit for obtaining of vacuum gasoil (VGO) and a visco-reduction unit for the soft thermal cracking of the resulting vacuum residue. In addition, environmental protection will be enhanced by the construction of new units for water treatment and removing sulphur.


A cogeneration unit was built in parallel with the aim of optimising the refining system, particularly in terms of steam and electric power. The cogeneration plant at the Matosinhos refinery came on stream in 2012 with a capacity of 80 MW.


Refinaria de SinesThe  upgrade project at the Sines refinery started its construction phase in December 2008. The project consisted in the construction of a new hydrocracker, i.e. a unit for hydrocracking heavy gasoil, for the production of diesel and jet fuel. This unit enables the production of diesel through deep conversion of the heavier fractions of crude oil. This technology makes the selection of crude oil to be processed more flexible, which allows the purchase of heavier crude oil for processing in the distillation column. The naphtha produced at the Sines refinery is partially sent to Matosinhos as raw material for the aromatics plant.


In addition to the main plant, a steam reformer unit for the production of hydrogen and a unit for recovering sulphur from produced gases were also built, both of which are necessary for operating the hydrocracker. These units implied the construction of seven new tanks and the adjustment of the utilities systems (water, steam, electric power and compressed air). The effluent system was also adapted for the exchanges with wastewater treatment plants to occur in environmentally adequate conditions.


The new premises occupy an area of 28 hectacres of newly-acquired land in the Sines complex.

Environmental profile of the upgrade project

Refinaria de SinesIn 2008 Galp Energia's refineries upgrade projects were classified as PIN+ (National Interest Project with strategic importance). In 2008, the evaluation process of the environmental impact of the upgrade projects was completed. In parallel, environmental licences with access request to the national reserve for new facilities of greenhouse effect gas emission licences and industrial licensing were reviewed.


Studies related to the environmental and safety risks inherent to the refineries' activity were performed.


The studies revealed that for any considered scenario, risks for people are acceptable,being no intolerable risk scenario and consequences for the environment are moderate or light.


The upgrade projects of the refineries, which adjust the national production to market demand, used the best available techniques in the sector. Energy integration between existing units and new units was one of the priorities.


Set-up work of the upgrade project of the Sines refinery

Watch the set-up of one of the main components of the conversion project of the Sines refinery, the distillation column of the Hydrocracker unit. 


Last update: 31 Mar 2015

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