New Catalysts Emerge

A variety of processes will benefit.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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UOP always is watching for market trends that set technology needs, such as supply diversification that revealed the growing demand for polyester by the textile sector, notes Jose Carrazza, business director for petrochemical catalysts.

The company is focusing on two main objectives for polyester: increasing the capacity for purification/separation of raw-material paraxylene, and maximizing production of xylene isomers to increase overall process yield.

"The first involves ADS-47, our latest generation Parex adsorbent. It will be demonstrated commercially 4Q11. It offers 20–25% more capacity and/or 5–10% savings in energy consumption compared to our previous generation adsorbent, which was already recognized in the industry as the best performing product," says Carrazza.

To achieve the second objective, UOP has commercialized TA-30 catalyst. It is used in the transalkylation of toluene, C9 aromatics and C10 aromatics to increase the yield of xylenes that then are separated and purified in the Parex section of the complex.

"The main advantages of TA-30 are activity and yield. Activity benefit is reflected in twice the catalyst life (or half the required weight) of conventional catalysts. The yield is reflected in >1% point higher xylene production and/or lower naphtha requirement for the same xylene production," explains Carrazza.

Meanwhile, the company continues to enhance offerings in areas it's been involved in for decades. For instance, it has introduced QZ-2500H, the latest in a family of catalysts for cumene production by benzene alkylation.

"The main criteria for evaluating a cumene catalyst are operating conditions, which [are] reflected in energy savings and lower capital requirement for new units. QZ-2500H's ability to operate at a lower propylene/benzene ratio and 10–20°C lower temperature than previous generations translates to a more than 10% reduction in energy consumption," he adds.

2011 also has been an important year for developments at BASF, Iselin, N.J. It announced three major catalyst-plant expansions in the second half of the year. Then in early September, the company reported that an affiliate, BASF Canada, had joined Quantiam Technologies, Edmonton, Alta., to form BASF Qtech.

This startup, which will be run as an independent entity, will focus on commercializing advanced catalytic surface coatings for steam cracker furnace tubes that Quantiam has been developing since 1998.

The coatings — proprietary composites with a metallic matrix (Figure 2) — are designed to reduce both carbon formation and carbon accumulation in petrochemical furnaces, thereby increasing tubes' onstream time and cutting energy expenditure and carbon dioxide emissions.

BASF Qtech's CAMOL (catalyzed-assisted manufacture of olefins) technology works by making coated furnace tubes inert to filamentous coke formation at tube surfaces while at the same time gasifying amorphous coke that would otherwise accumulate from the gas phase.

Commercial furnace trials of first generation (Gen-1) technology have shown major increases in online run lengths with overall reductions in the energy required to produce olefins (ethylene and propylene) and a commensurate reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Work now is underway on second generation (Gen-2) technology.

Richard Gay, BASF Qtech acting general manager, notes, "In developing the technology, we did not find one coating that would meet the needs of all crackers, all feedstocks, and all operating conditions. So we are advancing two coatings, a low-catalytic gasifier (LCG) and a high-catalytic gasifier (HCG). The LCG coating we believe is what is required in conventional ethane/propane cracking given the coking profile that is observed in the field. For naphtha crackers, we currently use the LCG coating where coking rates are low, and install the HCG coating where they are significantly higher. The Gen-2 products that are under development will build on this foundation."

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