Intelligent catalyst selection
Selection of the right catalyst is important; it will affect the capability and profitability of the particular unit and, in some cases, of the refinery complex or petrochemical plant over the next cycle. The catalyst needs to meet certain requirements concerning activity, selectivity, stability and mechanical strength. It is advisable to identify the most probable objectives of the unit over the next cycle (such as throughput and product slate) and the expected feedstock conditions (such as boiling range, impurities and hydrogen availability) to establish criteria for catalyst selection. The technical requirements for the next catalyst batch should be communicated clearly at the start of the selection process. All vendors should receive the same information to generate the most relevant offers, based on their current understanding of their products portfolio. Once the catalyst offers have been received, it is important to objectively assess whether all the technical requirements have been met. In addition to paper performance forecasts and guarantees, it is essential to request references and/or relevant pilot plant data. If time allows, you can also ask for catalyst samples to be tested in house or at a third-party laboratory.
Older generation catalysts obviously have more references and their performance can be expected to be modelled more precisely. Newer generation catalysts have the promise of much better performance but fewer references and the risk of unexpected performance if conditions deviate from the norm. When changing from one catalyst type to another, it is also important to conduct a change management procedure, to ensure that the new catalyst can be loaded and started up in the reactor and that the reactor can be controlled under safe conditions (reaction exotherms and quenching, capacity of downstream equipment). Once the technical selection has been completed, commercial negotiations can be entered into with the supplier(s) and issues such as price and payment terms, service provision, guarantees and returning excess catalyst can be discussed.
Catalyst Intelligence can assist in setting the objective catalyst selection criteria, analysing the offers and making a recommendation. Ensuring that all aspects of the catalyst selection are considered, you can then make a rational decision based on all the available information, taking the possibilities of the unit in combination with available catalysts and any unit and catalyst constraints into account. If the selected outcome is still not satisfactory, given the market conditions, we can then establish where the bottleneck is and what can be done to alleviate the constraint and further improve unit performance during the following cycle.
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