Founded in 1998, the research centre at San Filippo del Mela specialises in chemical and physical analysis for the world of refining, concentrating in particular on petroleum products and catalysts. To carry out its studies for the industry as best it can, it has seven laboratories and twelve pilot plants, in which researchers and technicians work in constant synergy. The Laboratory, as the cluster of seven specialist laboratories is known, has been accredited by Accredia since 2007, as laboratory no. 1044, office E. Overall, we carry out 6,000 studies a year here. Specifically, the Laboratory has accredited tests for emission trading for refineries owned by the Group. It later did so for analysis requested for experiments with pilot plants.
From the Laboratory to the plant
The added value of the research carried out at San Filippo del Mela comes from its testing of the industrial applications of the analyses done at the Laboratory, on site at a series of pilot plants constantly active at the research centre.
The pilot plants we use for experiments are as follows:
Fixed-bed: where we constantly study the reactions and processes of hydrogenation in all their forms. The data we get provides useful information on managing and optimising industrial plants at our refineries.
Ebullated-bed: where we convert the heavy portion of petroleum into lighter distillates.
Hydrocracking: where we produce middle distillates, like kerosene and diesel, through high conversion.
Microreactor: the unit where we test catalysts on fixed-bed hydroconversion reactors.
Coking: where we study how to optimise the process at the coking industrial unit.
FCC: where we screen catalysts and study the reactivity of loads.
Visbreaking: where we study the correlation between load composition, fuel stability and the stability of bitumen from visbreaking, as well as studying the solvents that provide hydrogen.
Cyclic propylene steaming: designed to deactivate 5 kg for batches of fresh catalysts for catalytic cracking.
Residue distillation: the unit we use to prepare loads for pilot plants.
EST pilot plant: divided into sections for load, reaction, vacuum distillation, storage and services.
SCT-CPO: where we produce syngas and/or hydrogen using short contact time and catalytic partial oxidation technology.
To support the experiments at our pilot plants as best we can, we have equipped the Laboratory at San Filippo del Mela with cutting-edge analysis tools that can provide valuable information quickly. This allows our researchers to test with precision the properties of products and catalysts, the dynamics of every phase of production cycles, and the characteristics of outgoing loads. All this information is then sent to technicians and engineers in the field, so they can reshape their processing. So, there is a communication flow between the plants and the Laboratory. Thanks to this two-way communication, we can refine our production processes to be more efficient and sustainable.
The main techniques at the research centre are of chemical and physical analysis of solid materials, especially catalysts, using microscopes, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, porosimetry and checking finding the limits to the mechanical resistance of samples. That is not all. We also distil crude oil and do chromatographic an elementary analysis of gas, increasingly using specific methods for the systems we study.
Our results so far
size of the research centre
analyses per year on average
Read more about our scientific research
Selected content on this issue.