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Application of PURASPEC, absorbents in catalytic reformers

Catalytic reforming units (CRUs) continue to be one of the refinery’s most important units. They produce high octane product for gasoline pool blending and are a major source of hydrogen for the refinery. Contaminants such as sulphur and chloride are common problems which can significantly reduce the economic performance of the reformer. Johnson Matthey Catalyst’s PURASPECJM™ absorbents can remove these contaminants and improve reformer performance.

Why sulphur is a problem
Sulphur is a temporary poison which has a detrimental effect on reformer catalyst performance. Sulphur contamination negatively impacts the metals function, which increases the acid catalyzed reactions (hydrocracking) relative to the metal catalyzed functions (dehydrogenation and dehydrocyclization).

This results in increased coking and decreased hydrogen production, hydrogen purity and reformate yield. The type of reforming catalyst has an important effect on the sensitivity to sulphur as a poison. Monometallic catalysts are the least sensitive and can tolerate up to 10 ppmw sulphur in the feed. However the platinum/rhenium (Pt/Re) bimetallics are much more sensitive and typical guidelines for feed sulphur are <0.5 ppmw for balanced Pt/Re catalyst and <0.2 ppmw for high rhenium skewed bimetallic catalyst from some catalyst suppliers.

Figures 1, 2 and 3 show the effects of sulphur poisoning on a high rhenium bimetallic catalyst: 1 ppmw sulphur in the feed can cause C5+ reformate yield loss of about 2 Liquid Volume (LV) % and cut reformer cycle time in half.

For a fixed-bed unit (semi-regenerative or cyclic type CRU), catalyst regeneration is also more difficult if the catalyst has been contaminated with sulphur. Sulphur on the catalyst and vessel surfaces is oxidized during catalyst regeneration. The result is a regenerated catalyst with low activity. Contaminated catalyst can have the sulphur removed by an additional hydrogen strip during the catalyst regeneration step. However this step is time consuming and not always successful.

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