Alma Petroli’s experience in the downstream sector dates back to 1960: time when the company started operating in heavy crude oil refining, and began to specialize in the production of high quality bitumen for road paving and industrial use. The company relies on a share capital of 10 million euros and its staff estimates about 80 members. Alma Petroli combines a production center, located in the industrial area of Ravenna, with administrative and commercial offices situated in the city center.
Improving and developing the refinery has always been a priority for Alma Petroli’s working policy: this allowed the company not only to consolidate its presence in the domestic market, but also to increase exportations to many foreign markets. Today, Alma Petroli can be regarded as the Italian leader in the sector, and one of the major producers in Europe, for paving grade and industrial bitumen.
The refinery was designed and started to be built in 1957, specifically for production of high quality bitumen. It is composed by a distillation plant, with a capacity of 550.000 tons/year, which combines one Atmospheric Distillation Unit and one Vacuum Distillation Unit. Furthermore, the refinery runs an oxidized bitumen plant, composed by two oxidation reactors, and a plant for packing oxidized bitumen in blocks.
Alma Petroli is included within the “Ravenna Petrochemical District”, and it is located on the left side of the Candiano Canal, which constitutes the canal harbor of the city by connecting directly to the sea. Thanks to its strategic position, the refinery can access two distinct networks: the road, through the roadway connections of Ravenna’s industrial area; and the sea, thanks to a10.s mt berth designed for handling shipped raw materials and products.
The refinery’s main activity consists in processing crude oil and heavy semi-finished products to generate paving grade and industrial bitumen. Qualified specialists, in permanent contact with the internal laboratory, are responsible for supervising each phase of the production process, in order to grant the best quality and deliver products in line with the specifications required by the client.
The production process
Alma Petroli’s production consists of:
– 70% of various categories of Bitumen, generally used for road construction and for the production of waterproof membranes.
– 28% of High Sulfur Gasoil (normally used for the flushing of crude oil extraction wells, fuel oil blending, or as a fuel for gasoil desulphurization plants) and High Sulfur Vacuum Gasoil.
– 2% of Virgin Naphtha, a light semi-finished product meant for sale and/or for internal combustion.
Production plant area
This area includes all the refinery’s production units, such as: the distillation plant, the oxidization plant, and the plant for packing oxidized bitumen in blocks. Moreover, the different semi-finished products generated can be mixed with other varieties to obtain a larger number of products
Specifically, in the production plant the following activities take place:
Raw materials distillation
Through the distillation process, the crude oil distillation plant allows to differentiate a range of products and semi-finished products based on their boiling point. Crude oil is moved from the tanks for stocking to the plant, by transfer pumps, and it is pre-heated in proper heat exchangers. As a consequence of the passage of the raw material throughout the atmospheric distillation unit, a number of products are extracted in the following order: Off-gas, Virgin Naptha, Gasoil, and lastly, from the bottom of the column, some dense and viscous atmospheric residue.
The off-gas generated from the distillation process is sent to a unit, where it gets all pollutants removed, and the fuel gas deriving from the process will be later used for internal consumption.
The Virgin Naptha, after passing through the alkaline treatment plant is sent to stocking; while the Gasoil is cooled off and sent directly to stocking. The atmospheric residue, instead, is transferred to a process oven by pumps, and after being heated up to 370°C, it moves to the vacuum distillation unit. Here, vacuum gasoil and heavy oils will be separated.
The distillated bitumen recovered from the bottom of the vacuum column, known as “straight run”, will be cooled off, transferred to proper tanks for stocking, and kept at a temperature between 150 and 180°C. Bitumen resulting from this process represents bitumen for road construction and industrial use of many types. Normally, Alma Petroli produces five categories of paving grade bitumen, however, other categories are available on request.
Oxidized bitumen is produced by using two oxidation reactors, with a nominal production capacity of 40.000 tons/year. During the oxidation process, distillated bitumen, mixed up with heavy oils, is put into one reactor and heated up until reaching 210°C, and then proceeds to the injection of air. Through the entire oxidation reaction (2-4 hours) the temperature is maintained at 240°C; the resulting vapors, containing water and heavy hydrocarbons, are condensed. The condensed part, which separates from the water by settling is re-processed to the distillation unit, while the non-condensed phase is transferred to the thermal station unit and then used as fuel gas with low heating value. Once the oxidation cycle is concluded, the product is either sent for stocking to the system for packing oxidized bitumen, or it is transferred to the loading station, where it is loaded on bitumen trucks. The plant works h24 to ensure punctual and high quality services.
The blending process of distillates deriving from crude oil processing, as well as the blending process of many categories of bitumen, respectively lead to a diversified production of fuel and bitumen. This process takes place inside tanks equipped with impellers or pump for recycling.
Oxidized bitumen packing
The refinery is equipped with a plant of oxidized bitumen packing. The blocks are packed up on pallets, loaded on trucks or containers, and then sent to provide the domestic market as well as the foreign market.
In addition to the production area described above, it seems advisable to separate Alma Petroli’s plant into four main macro-areas, in order to provide a comprehensive description of the refinery:
This area includes unloading bays of raw materials received via trucks, products loading station, and a berth for receiving/shipping raw materials and products by tankers. The latter, with a 230 m length and a 10,5 m draft, can secure ships up to 40.000 tons capacity.
The refinery is also equipped with a marine mechanical arm for the loading and unloading of crude oil and semi-finished products on tankers.
Storage and handling areas
They include a storage area for incoming raw materials and outgoing products, and a transferring pumps station. The total storage capacity is about 137.000 m3, split into 55 tanks, which are combined together, equipped with containment basins, and displaced within the refinery area.
The structure of the tanks area provides great versatility to the storage process of raw material and finished products, making numerous qualities of bitumen available any time.
Auxiliary plants areas
Indicating all the refinery’s complementary units, such as the thermal station unit, the cogeneration plant, the demi water plant, the wastewater pre-treatment plant, the bitumen vapors treatment plant, etc..
General service areas
They include all the facilities, such as the mechanic and electrical workshops, the warehouse, the offices, the chemicals stocking areas, and the temporary waste deposit.
The refinery is also equipped with a modern analytical laboratory, highly specialized in the characterization of raw materials and products, particularly in relation to bitumen. The laboratory supervises each phase of the production process and the quality of the product h24. Analysis are taken in accordance with the international analytical methods (ASTM, CEN, etc).