The Kochi refinery in Kerala is owned and operated by India’s state-owned Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL). With an average crude processing capacity of 15.5 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), it is claimed to be the biggest public sector refinery in the country.

The refinery started operations with an initial capacity of 50,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 1966. Originally known as Cochin Refineries, it was owned and operated through a joint-venture partnership between the Government of India and the US-based Phillips Petroleum Corporation.

The Kochi refinery processed a total of 16.52 million tonnes (Mt) of crude oil during the financial year ending March 2020, while a propylene derivative petrochemical project (PDPP) was inaugurated at the refinery complex in February 2021.

Location and crude supply

The BPCL Kochi refinery site occupies approximately 1,265 acres in the Ambalamugal suburb, approximately 14km away from Kochi, in the southernmost Indian state of Kerala.

The refinery receives crude supply from very large crude carriers (VLCCs) via a single point mooring system (SPM) installed approximately 19km off the coast of Puthuvypeen, Kochi.

A 19.5km-long, 48in-diametre pipeline is laid from the SPM to the onshore tank farm at Puthuvypeen. The crude oil from the tank farm is pumped via a 30in-diameter pipeline to the refinery.

Processing infrastructure

The various process units in the refinery include crude distillation units, a fluidised catalytic cracking unit, a diesel hydro desulphurisation unit, a naphtha hydro-treater unit, a continuous catalytic reformer unit, a vacuum gas oil hydro desulphurisation unit, a petro fluidised catalytic cracking unit, a diesel hydro-treater unit, an isomerisation unit, a delayed coker unit, a sulphur recovery unit, an aromatics recovery unit, and a biturox unit.

The refinery capacity was increased from 3.3Mtpa to 4.5Mtpa with the installation of a fluidised catalytic cracking unit in 1984.

The capacity expansion and modernisation project carried out during 2009 to 2011 further boosted the refinery capacity from 7.5Mtpa to 9.5 Mtpa.

The refinery produces a range of products including, LPG, naphtha, petrol, diesel, kerosene, and aviation turbine fuel. The refinery also produces various petrochemical feedstock and specialty products including, benzene, toluene, food grade hexane, propylene, mineral turpentine oil, sulphur, petcoke, and hydrogen.

Integrated refinery expansion project

An integrated refinery expansion project (IREP) was commissioned at the BPCL Kochi refinery site in 2017. It increased the refining capacity from 9.5Mtpa to 15.5Mtpa, apart from modernising the process modules for the production of BS-IV/VI auto fuels.

The IREP involved the installation of various process units including, a crude distillation unit /vacuum distillation unit, a diesel hydro-treater unit, a vacuum gas oil hydro-treater unit, a sulphur recovery unit, a delayed coker unit, and a fluid catalytic cracking unit.

The project also included the installation of new gas turbine generators, utility boilers, and a raw water treatment plant.

Propylene derivative petrochemical project

The recently launched propylene derivative petrochemical project (PDPP) at the refinery enables the production of various petrochemicals including, acrylic acid, oxo alcohols and acrylates.

The polymer grade propylene produced from the Petro fluid catalytic cracking unit in the refinery is used as feedstock for the PDPP project.

BS-VI motor spirit block project 

Scheduled for completion in March 2021, the project will enable the maximisation of BS-VI petrol production by the Kochi refinery. The refinery has been producing BS-VI standard petrol and diesel since November 2019.

Contracts awarded

Engineers India was contracted to provide project management consultancy (PMC) services for the propylene derivative petrochemical project, as well as for the integrated refinery expansion project at the Kochi refinery.

The company is also providing PMC, as well as engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) services for the BS-VI motor spirit project at the refinery.

Petrofac bagged a lump-sum engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract worth approximately £97.5m ($135m) for a new motor spirit block at the refinery in March 2018.

Air Products was awarded a contract to build, own and operate (BOO) an industrial gas complex to supply hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and steam for the various process units in the integrated refinery expansion in 2013.

Air Products also bagged the BOO contract for a new syngas production facility at the Kochi refinery in January 2018. The facility supplies syngas for the propylene derivatives petrochemical project (PDPP).