The Zhongke refinery and petrochemical complex is a massive integrated downstream project comprising an oil refinery, an ethylene production unit, and a 34 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) petrochemical port on the east coast of Zhanjiang, in the Guangdong province of China.

The estimated investment for the first phase of the project is approximately £4.6bn ($5.6bn). The construction works were started in December 2016 while the mechanical completion was achieved in December 2019.

The refinery port, which is claimed to be the biggest such port facility in China, commenced operation by unloading the first crude shipment in May 2020, while the refinery and petrochemical processing operations are scheduled for commissioning by July 2020.

Owned and operated by the Chinese state-owned company China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec), the Zhongke refinery and petrochemical facility will process 10 million tonnes (Mt) of crude and produce 800,000 tonnes (t) of ethylene a year.

Location and site details

The Zhongke refinery and petrochemical complex is being developed on a 6km2-site in the Donghai Island in Zhanjiang, in the Guangdong province of China. Donghai Island is the fifth-largest island in China.

Zhongke refinery and petrochemical processing facilities

The Zhongke refinery includes a 10Mtpa capacity atmospheric and vacuum distillation unit, a light carbon recovery unit of 2Mtpa capacity, a 4.2Mtpa residue fluid catalytic cracking unit, a 4.4Mtpa residue desulphurisation unit, a 2Mtpa hydrocracking unit, and a 2Mtpa diesel hydrogenation unit.

The fluid catalytic cracking unit uses catalysts to break large distillation fractions to lighter products. The desulphurisation unit removes sulphur from the distillation fractions, while the hydrocracker unit uses hydrogen and a catalyst to crack heavy distillate.

The petrochemical complex houses an ethylene steam cracking unit of 800 thousand tonnes per annum (Ktpa) capacity, a 400 Ktpa pyrolysis gasoline hydrogenation unit, a 550 Ktpa polypropylene unit, a 350 Ktpa high-density polyethylene unit, and a coal-to-hydrogen unit.

A 4km-long supporting natural gas pipeline via Tongming Strait was constructed as part of the project. It is claimed to be the longest natural gas pipeline drilled using horizontal directional drilling in China.

Zhongke petrochemical port

The Sinopec Zhongke refinery port, built as part of the Zhongke refinery and petrochemical project, is claimed to be the biggest petrochemical port in China.

The refinery is located approximately 1.1km away from the port and the design of the integrated complex is based on Sinopec’s “front terminal and rear plant” production model.

The port comprises eight terminals including a 300,000t crude oil berth, a 100,000t refined oil berth, and other supporting facilities. The total loading unloading capacity of the port is 34 million tonnes year.

The 100,000-tonne refined oil berth is the biggest refined oil terminal in China. The loading and unloading capacity of the refined oil terminal is 5.61 million tonnes a year. The port commenced operation with the docking and unloading of crude oil from a very large crude carrier (VLCC) from the Middle East in May 2020.

Contracts awarded

Sinopec Engineering Company, a subsidiary of Sinopec Group, received the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contracts worth £980m ($1.35bn) for the oil refining segment of the Zhongke refining and petrochemical project in January 2018. The scope of the contract included a light carbon recovery unit, a fluid catalytic cracking unit, a desulphurisation unit, and a hydrocracking unit.

Sinopec Engineering was also awarded EPC contracts worth £1.24bn ($1.72bn) for chemical engineering and power station segments of the Zhongke refining and petrochemical project in March 2018. The scope of the contract included an ethylene steam cracking unit, a pyrolysis gasoline hydrogenation unit, a polypropylene unit, a high-density polyethylene unit, a coal-to-hydrogen unit, and a power station.

Sinopec Engineering’s subsidiaries including Sinopec Shanghai Engineering Company, Sinopec Ningbo Engineering Company, Sinopec Luoyang (Guangzhou) Engineering Company are involved in the design, construction, and supply of oil refining and petrochemical units for the project.

Sinopec Nanjing Engineering Company constructed the 10Mtpa-atmospheric and vacuum distillation unit. Sinopec Gas Company constructed the 4km-long supporting natural gas pipeline.

Guangdong Jirong Air-conditioning Company was awarded heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contract in July 2019.

Kaji Technology Corporation, a subsidiary of Mitsui E&S Group, bagged an order from Sinopec Engineering to supply three units of reciprocating compressors in March 2018.

Separately, Kaji Technology was contracted to supply a reciprocating compressor unit for high-pressure nitrogen gas service for Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate production system in November 2017.