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.

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