Operating Margin Improvement

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 margin improvement opportunity for the plant. 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, a Request for Quotation (RFQ) needs to be issued. It is important for the RFQ 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 margin improvement opportunity for the catalyst user, and guarantees of the supplier will depend on the quality of the 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 RFQ 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 managed the catalyst selection (reforming, isomerization, hydrotreating, and hydrocracking catalysts) for several refineries.. In these projects we contact the catalyst suppliers and the test laboratories on behalf of the refinery and we develop a test protocol that is acceptable to all stake-holders. The catalysts can either be tested under identical conditions, or they can be tested under conditions recommended by the suppliers. We report all results to the refinery and we report the results of each catalyst supplier individually. The refiner can make an informed decision based on the verified test-results. On request, we can help the refiner to convert the test-results in an economic forecast for the plant.

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