From time-to-time, the catalyst needs to be replaced and refineries and petrochemical plants need to decide which catalyst to load next. This is an important performance and margin improvement opportunity for the plant. The first question is what performance do we need from the unit? The second question is whether these performance objectives can be achieved with a regenerated catalyst or whether it is necessary to load a fresh catalyst? If the decision is made to go for a fresh catalyst the third question is do we stay with the incumbent supplier or do we invite alternative suppliers? Good operators know that catalyst selection for critical units is never driven by price, but always by performance. Thus, the performance must be optimized within the constraints of the unit.
If it is decided to load a fresh catalyst, an enquiry document (ITB, RFQ) needs to be issued. It is important for the enquiry document to be complete with feedstock qualities, operating conditions, and desired product properties and cycle length. In addition it is important to consider several scenarios which the unit may be subjected to in the future. The catalyst supplier can easily make performance forecasts for each scenario, and come up with one or more catalyst proposals. Some catalysts may show acceptable performance under all scenarios, whereas others may excel in a single scenario, but fail in other scenarios. It is essential to be crystal clear about the objectives of the unit. This catalyst selection is a performance improvement opportunity for the catalyst user, and guarantees of the supplier will depend on the quality of the ITB/RFQ.
If the unit operation is well known / predictable and the unit is not stretched, costs may be optimized as several catalyst offers will meet all the requirements. Such a situation will give some leverage to the catalyst buyer. If the future operation of the unit is uncertain, however, and the unit is a constraint in the total refinery or chemical plant optimization, it is advisable to identify the constraints that are likely to occur and find the catalyst solution that addresses those constraints in the best possible manner.
Catalyst Intelligence can assist in writing a complete enquiry document and in evaluating the offers from the various suppliers. We can do a paper review of the technical offers and check for consistency, or check commercial references for confirmation of performance. In some cases the clients decide not to rely on technical offers and to conduct own side-by-side performance testing in a laboratory. In such case Catalyst Intelligence can assist with setting up the test-program including start-up procedure and operating conditions, accelerated deactivation protocol, product analysis and evaluation of the results. Since 2016, Catalyst Intelligence has assisted several refineries with selection of reforming, isomerization, hydrotreating, and hydrocracking catalysts.
If it is decided to use a regenerated catalyst, Catalyst Intelligence can help with preparing for the change-out by selecting a regenerated catalyst from inventory or planning the (turnaround) regeneration at specialized regeneration companies. In case of regeneration we can assist with(i) sampling and analysis of the spent catalyst, and (ii) drafting of the acceptance criteria for the regenerated catalyst. This will make sure that only catalyst that is suitable for regeneration will be regenerated, and that the regeneration is conducted in such a manner that the regenerated catalyst is of a quality suitable for re-use (performance and physical properties).
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