Viva Energy highly commended in global awards

13 Nov 2019

Viva Energy Australia Pty Ltd (“Viva Energy”) and its technology partner US-based CPFD Software (“CPFD”) received two high commendations at the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Global Awards in the United Kingdom.

The commendations came in the Innovative Product and Industry Project categories announced in Hull, England, on Thursday 7 November and recognise the work done by Viva Energy and CPFD in using virtual modelling to solve a performance issue on a unit at Viva Energy’s Geelong refinery.

The commendations are a significant recognition in the field of chemical engineering, given IChemE is a global organisation with over 37,000 members in more than 100 countries.

The work done by CPFD and engineers from the Technology Department at Viva Energy’s Geelong Refinery is having an impact on the way refineries are run around the world.

CPFD and Viva Energy utilised cutting-edge software to identify and resolve a performance issue inside the massive Residue Catalytic Cracking Unit (RCCU) – also known as “the Cracker” – at Viva Energy’s refinery in Geelong.

The work was in response to performance issues inside the Cracker’s Regenerator unit, which forced the refinery to slow production, reducing output and costing tens of thousands of dollars per day. Identifying the problem and developing a solution was difficult given the Cracker Regenerator runs at 700 degrees Celsius, 24 hours a day, 365 days year.

Using CPFD’s highly specialised Barracuda Virtual Reactor® software, the team was able to develop a virtual model of the processes going on inside the Cracker to identify the root cause of the performance issues and run virtual experiments to validate that the proposed solution would actually work.

This approach meant that the refinery avoided an expensive and potentially risky shutdown to identify the cause of the performance issue. It also gave the Geelong team confidence that the implementation of the solution was unlikely to lead to other unintended performance issues.

As a result of this innovative approach, Viva Energy was able to reduce the number of process upsets associated with the Cracker by 75 percent, improving throughput by hundreds of tonnes per day.

The refinery’s work with CPFD’s virtual modelling has opened the door for this innovative technology to be used in other refineries around the world, with the technology now used on six different continents.

“This project delivered an excellent outcome, giving us confidence that specific hardware changes would restore the operation of our Cracker to the level we expect – which it did,” said Thys Heyns, Viva Energy’s General Manager of Refining. “Our team’s collaborative approach brought together CPFD’s expertise and our refinery knowledge. I regard the use of CPFD as a key step in the digitisation of our refinery activities, and it is great to see this project having an impact on the way other refineries are operated around the world.”


The Residue Catalytic Cracking Unit turns heavier, long-chain hydrocarbons into lighter, cleaner and more valuable fuels such as gasoline. The process involves mixing the heavy end of crude oil with a sand-like catalyst at a rate of 25 tonnes per minute at extremely high temperature.

About Viva Energy

Viva Energy is one of Australia’s leading energy companies and supplies approximately a quarter of the country’s liquid fuel requirements. It is the exclusive supplier of high quality Shell fuels and lubricants in Australia through an extensive network of more than 1,250 service stations across the country.

Viva Energy Australia owns and operates the strategically located Geelong Refinery in Victoria, and operates bulk fuels, aviation, bitumen, marine, chemicals and lubricants businesses supported by more than 20 terminals and 50 airports and airfields across the country.