HYDROCARBON PUBLISHING COMPANY
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A member of the Hydrocarbon Analytics Group
Publication date:3Q 2017
Catalytic reforming transforms naphthenes and paraffins into aromatics and isoparaffins. This process serves two main objectives in the refinery: production of high-octane reformate for gasoline blending and production of high-value aromatics for the petrochemical industry. In addition to benzene and xylene, reformate also contains toluene and heavier aromatics, which can be converted to benzene and desired xylenes via hydrodealkylation, disproportionation, transalkylation, isomerization, or alkylation. Reformers also supply considerable amounts of hydrogen needed for hydrotreating, hydrocracking, and isomerization; H2 supply coming from the reformer is becoming an increasingly important contributor to the refinery hydrogen network as more stringent fuel specifications are put in place necessitating greater H2 use in hydroprocessing units to meet these ultra-low requirements. Straight-run naphtha from the crude unit is the most common feedstock, but gasoline-range streams from catalytic crackers, hydrocrackers, cokers, and visbreakers can be routed to the reformer to increase octane.
Catalytic reforming processes are classified as semi-regenerative, cyclic, or continuous (CCR) depending upon the frequency of catalyst regeneration. Operating conditions, average cycle length, catalyst composition, and product slate can all vary depending on the type of unit that is used.
Since its inception, the primary focus of catalytic reforming was gasoline production. However, the sluggish gasoline demand in developed countries combined with new blending components and processing of non-traditional crudes (tight oil) have reduced the role catalytic reforming in a modern refinery. Furthermore, ethanol blending into the gasoline pool has been on an upward trend around the world, and blending ethanol displaces reformate in the gasoline pool, hence decreasing its demand. The main issue with ethanol blending is increased volatility due to high RVP. Usually reformate would be used to reduce RVP but there are other options, such as alkylate and ETBE, that are available in the industry.
Despite a decrease in gasoline demand, there are opportunities for refiners with catalytic reformers to shift operations and take advantages of current market opportunities, namely increased production of aromatics. The aromatics market is on an upswing with strong demand growth and many are now realizing the potential for increasing profits through catalytic reforming. Some refiners already switched operating conditions to maximize aromatics production instead of reformate.
In addition to benzene and xylene, reformate also contains toluene and heavier aromatics, which can be converted to benzene and desired xylenes via hydrodealkylation, disproportionation, transalkylation, isomerization, or alkylation. By 2025, the aromatics market will account for 35% of the total naphtha supply, an increase from 27% in 2012 as the demand growth will outpace the supply, tightening markets. With the market ripe for aromatics, catalytic reforming is still an important unit. This is evidenced by the significant patent activity in the last four years centering on aromatics-selective reforming processes, novel catalyst compositions to boost aromatics yields and the use of reforming in conjunction with other processes for aromatics production. Going forward, refiners may opt for integration with other processing units within their facility or with a nearby PC plant to boost aromatics output in order to maximize the value of their existing reforming assets.
Additionally, the catalytic reforming section features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:
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Keywords: platinum catalysts, Pt catalysts, Sn, tin, reformate, high octane, octane, gasoline blending, aromatics production, byproduct hydrogen, semi-regenerative, cyclic, continuous, CCR, catalyst regeneration, benzene, toluene, xylene, paraxylene, PX, BTX aromatics, Reid vapor pressure, RVP, oxygenate blending, ethanol, refinery-petrochemical integration, multimetallic catalysts, zeolite, promoter, additive, platinum recovery