Milestones for successful Refinery Catalyst Testing

Successful catalyst testing requires early planning to allow sufficient time to make necessary arrangements and timely obtain test results.

The proposed milestones and indicative timeline are best practices and should serve as a reference relative to the planned catalyst change out. Catalyst lead-time is typically between 6 and 12 months. The selection process, including testing, should start several months before that.

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The Testing Coordinator should prepare a milestones plan accordingly and seek internal buy-in to secure necessary resources.

Important to consider at this stage:

  • Identify and contact independent testing labs
  • Define the catalyst suppliers to be contacted
  • Overall required time schedule
Refineries typically approach catalyst suppliers issuing an Invitation to Bid requesting catalyst offers for their unit technical specifications and operating conditions.  At this point, catalyst suppliers are informed of the intent to conduct independent testing to support the catalyst selection. Refineries may choose to collect all catalyst samples and send to Avantium or request that vendors timely send the sample directly to us; common practice with Avantium. We recommend to include in the Invitation to Bid the key milestones for testing (e.g. shipping of catalyst samples and timing of the test) to ensure required agreements are timely in place/established. Three practices are common:

  1. Refineries pay the total cost of the test
  2. Refineries ask the participating catalyst suppliers to share the costs
  3. The selected catalyst vendor, or “test winner” pays for the test

Lastly, a Request For Proposal (RFP) at Avantium should be placed. These tests require significant planning and it is important that refineries start early to allow for a proper selection of the catalyst options and testing facility to obtain the test results in time for ordering the catalyst(s).

Equally important is the assurance that the testing will be representative and accepted by the catalyst suppliers. For this, the vendors should be involved in the test design to obtain their buy-in and necessary input. Avantium recommends the involvement of the participating catalyst suppliers and a regularly interface in the alignment with all stakeholders. After contract award, Avantium interfaces with the catalyst suppliers to ensure buy-in on the test protocol, catalyst loading, and activation procedures, in consultation with the refinery. Below a general workflow with Avantium.

  • Evaluate catalyst vendor claims on activity, selectivity, deactivation, start-of-run WABT, aromatics saturation and hydrogen consumption and compare against the incumbent catalyst.
  • Opportunity (crude) feed studies – catalyst flexibility.
  • Evaluate regenerated catalysts; refiners are the owners of the spent catalysts that can be regenerated and included in comparative testing to increase confidence in the regenerated material.
  • Spot sample activity testing after delivery of catalyst by vendor: presulfided catalysts, regen/rejuvenated catalysts.
  • Screening of different types of feeds, i.e. impact of feed properties process parameters and catalyst life; Perform new crude oil feasibility and selection for refinery feedstock on sets of catalysts
  • Validate/Verify claims for new vendors in the market
  • Stability testing / deactivation studies on sets of catalysts.
  • Step out technology options (e.g. dewaxing in ULSD).
  • Kinetic measurements, feedstock and contaminant effects.
  • Obtain relevant data to support refinery revamps and consideration of alternative feeds.
At the end of the pilot plant test, Avantium will provide the full data set together with a complete report, within 2 weeks of test completion. The test results include a set of plots (agreed during kick-off), the most important data on conversion, mass balances, H2 consumption, and all test conditions, together with a relevant comparison between catalysts. The test results enable the refinery to independently validate catalyst performance and better determine the most efficient catalyst that most likely will provide the maximum economic benefit. For a hydrocracking catalysts test our technology allows to discriminate 1 °C difference in catalyst activity, and 0.5 wt.% in middle distillates yields. This is important because a lower gas make of e.g. 1 wt.% could result in savings up to $3MM; one month increase on cycle length could result in savings up to $0.5MM.

Single-Pellet-String-Reactors (SPSR)

No dead-zones, no bed packing & distribution effects. The catalyst packing is straightforward and does not require special procedures. A single string of catalyst particles is loaded in the reactors with an internal diameter (ID) that closely matches the particle average diameter. This applies to single catalyst systems, as well as stacked-bed systems. The use of a narrow reactor avoids any maldistribution of gas and liquid over the catalyst bed, thereby eliminating catalyst-bed channeling and incomplete wetting of the catalyst.

The most accurate and stable pressure regulator for 16-parallel reactors

The most accurate and stable pressure regulator for a multi-parallel reactors with just ±0.1bar RSD at reference conditions. The Reactor Pressure Controller (RPC) uses microfluidics technology to individually regulate the back-pressure of each reactor. By measuring the inlet pressure of each reactor, the RPC maintains a constant inlet pressure by regulating the backpressure. As a result, the distribution of the inlet flows over the 16 reactors is unaffected and a low reactor-to-reactor flow variability is achieved.

Reactor pressure control is not only important to ensure accurate pressure control, but also to help maintaining equal distribution of the inlet flow over the 16 reactors.

Automated liquid sampling system

Programmable, fully automated liquid product sampling robot for 24/7 hands-off operation. Robot equipped with a compact manifold aiming at depressurizing the effluent immediately after each reactor to atmospheric pressure. Reactor effluent is depressurized by a miniaturized (low volume) parallel dome regulator, allowing a stable control of gas or gas/liquid product streams. This eliminates the use of valves at high pressure (such as multi-position valves), which are prone to leakage.

Gas liquid separation is sone directly by collecting the liquid products in sample vials and directing the gas products to the online gas analyzer. This approach minimizes required flushing times in the downstream section of the reactor eliminating the need for high pressure gas-liquid separators, level sensors, and drain valves.

EasyLoad® reactor closing system

Unique reactor closing system, no connections required. With a rapid reactor replacement minimizing delays, improving uptime and reliability. Sealing of up to 16 reactors by simply closing the ‘top-box’ in a single action. No leak testing required!

Stable evaporation by liquid injection into reactor

The direct injection of liquid into the top of the reactor and the consecutive conditioning zone allows feeding of broad range of liquids and concentrations. Various types of liquids, both aqueous and oil phase are successfully evaporated and fed to the reactors.

Tube-in-tube reactor technology with effluent dilution

This unique tube-in-tube feature allows an easy and rapid exchange of the reactor tubes (within minutes!) with a single o-ring at the top of the reactor without the need for any connections. The use of an inert diluent gas (outside of reactor) to maintain the pressure stops undesirable reactions immediately after the catalyst bed while serving as a carrier gas to the GC, facilitating the analysis of high boiling point components, preventing dead volumes and back flow, and reducing the time required to transfer gas and liquid effluent products to the analytical instruments.

The tube-in-tube design enables the use of quartz reactors at high pressure applications.

Compact TinyPressure module glass-chip holder with integrated pressure measurement

Holds the microfluidic glass-chips for gas distribution and measures inlet (and outlet) pressure of the 16 parallel reactors at ambient temperature, allowing online measurement of catalyst bed pressure drop.

No high-temperature pressure sensors required. Pressure range of 10 – 200 bar (high pressure) or 0.5 – 10 bar (low pressure).

The modular design enables easy calibration and quick exchange of the microfluidic glass-chip, without the need for time-consuming leak testing.

Microfluidics modular gas distribution

Unrivalled accuracy in gas distribution with patented glass-chips for 4 and 16 reactors, tested with a guaranteed flow distribution of 0.5% RSD channel-to-channel variability. Quick exchange for different operating conditions, offering the unique flexibility to cover a wide range of applications using the same reactor system.

Auto-calibrating liquid feed distribution, measurement, and control

The most accurate liquid distribution for high throughput systems with real-time liquid flow measurement and control for 16-parallel reactors. Auto-calibrating function enabled by a single flow sensor guarantees that all 16 reactors are continuously operated at the desired LHSV, all the time. Innovative design based on our microfluidic glass-chips with integrated temperature-control. The system continuously regulates the liquid distribution to all 16 reactors, and together with our Reactor Pressure Control technology, eliminates the impacts of pressure variations in the flow distribution.

Proven technology with difficult feedstocks with high viscosity, such as VGO, HVGO and DAO: no blockage and or breakage observed. Different glass-chips available for different viscosities.

Liquid distribution errors below 0.2% RSD, making it the most accurate parallel liquid flow distribution device on the market.

Option to selectively isolate the liquid flow to any of the 16-parallel reactors.


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