By – Steve Metro and Christopher Polaniecki
The reforming unit is a critical part of the refinery and petrochemical plant used for the production of motor fuels, aromatics, and hydrogen. Recent industry trends impact the way many plants are operating their reforming units. These trends include increased ethanol blending in finished gasoline, benzene reduction, and higher diesel demand. Some reforming units are faced with lower severity operations, running at a lower octane target and/or reduced throughput. However, some plants, particularly in emerging regions, are operating their reforming units at a higher severity with increased throughput or higher octane targets. Many refiners and petrochemical producers require flexibility to operate at varying severities to meet market needs. Some producers have to manage feedstock changes such as heavier cuts. Others are focused on running higher octane for aromatics production. Most refiners are looking for more hydrogen from the reforming unit to feed other critical units such as hydroprocessing units. Platinum catalytic reforming celebrates its 62nd year of operation this year, after being first introduced by UOP in 1949. UOP has steadily invested and advanced this technology with numerous process, equipment, and catalyst breakthroughs.
UOP continues to invest heavily in product development to further improve reforming unit economics. UOP is making investments in both CCR Platforming and older generation fixed-bed reforming technologies. Both are important and viable production processes, with each contributing to approximately one-half of reforming capacity world-wide in 2011.
UOP has developed a next generation fixed-bed reforming R-500 catalyst that further improves operations and unit profitability. R-500 is a breakthrough fixed-bed reforming catalyst which exhibits the highest yield, activity, and stability available. The new catalyst is a drop-in replacement for existing units. Additional benefits include longer cycles, higher throughput, and higher severity, all leading to improved refinery economics.
R-500 is a new product that builds upon UOP’s proven experience in manufacturing and commercial operation, but is the result of a critical combination of physical and chemical properties. R-500 employs a unique proprietary high density base formulation using proprietary manufacturing techniques, resulting in increased activity. UOP has proven manufacturing excellence for over 50 years of controlling the entire manufacturing process and all catalyst properties.
R-500 employs an optimized metals formulation with a proven promoter in the finished catalyst, facilitating higher selectivity. UOP has proven commercial performance with UOP R-98 catalyst over numerous regenerations; R-500 is expected to be equally regenerable since it employs the same promoter. Finally, R-500 utilizes a performance-enhanced shaped extrudate that results in improved stability.
R-500 continues UOP’s catalyst innovation in fixed-bed reforming and adds to its portfolio of semi-regen products: R-56, R-86, and R-98 along with cyclic reforming catalysts R-85 and R-88 (see Figure 1). R-500 offers multiple benefits to meet the shifting demands of reforming units. These benefits can be realized while maintaining existing operating conditions or by increasing operating severity. If operating conditions are maintained, advantages of R-500 include:
• Increased aromatics, C5+, and H2 yields over a fixed cycle (see Figure 2) or
• Longer cycle with same end-of-run temperature (see Figure 3) and
• Additional protection against contaminants If operating severity is increased, advantages of R-500 include:
• Higher aromatics, C5+, and H2 yields through reduced operating pressure
• Higher octane or aromatics yield targets or harder to process feed with same cycle length
• Higher throughput with same cycle length Figures 2 and 3 are constructed from UOP pilot plant data. The pilot plant tests were run at constant feed rate and octane. Trends for total aromatics and H2 yields follow similar trends as the C5+ yield shown.
Both figures show the performance curve for R-86 (red, lowest), where like all semi-regen catalysts, the C5+ yield declines over time as the coke builds on the catalyst and deactivates the catalyst. The R-98 performance curve (shown in green, center) deactivates at a rate similar to R-86, but has a higher start-of-run (SOR) yield advantage. The R-500 performance curve (upper curve in blue) has the same SOR yield as R-98, but has a much lower deactivation rate, resulting in lower yield decline vs. time.