05 refomer case studies and optimisation

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  • Reformer catalyst application and


    Rishabh Upadhyay

    25 Mar 2015

    Westin Hotel Gurgaon, India

  • Agenda

    Catalyst combination for heavy natural gas feedstock

    Pressure drop reduction and efficiency benefit

    Steaming of primary reformer for carbon removal

    Manage increased plant rate

    Global excellence

    Importance of monitoring process gas temperature

    Catalysts for demanding top fired reformer exceed performance in side fired reformer

  • Case Study 1: Customer with heavy NG


    A large methanol customer in Asia Pacific

    Plant capacity ~ 2500 MTPD

    Top fired reformer

    Recently commissioned competition catalyst faced with challenging conditions

    Plant constrained to increase load

  • Background

    Relatively heavy natural gas feedstock

    Feedstock availability erratic, several trips seen during operation

    Tubes observed with hot spots and patches

    Eventually some of the tubes ruptured

    Carbon formation suspected

    JM conducted Reformer Imager survey to identify potential issues with the reformer

  • Thermal Imager reformer survey

    TWTs were measured accurately at two levels

    Several hot spots were found during survey

    Few hot spots were above the design temperature

    Hot & cold zones identified

    Hot spots in blind areas observed with the use of Thermal Imager which has fish-eye lens

  • Temperature distribution

  • Benchmarking the reformer

    Benchmarked against similar reformers to identify scope of improvement

    Number of plants

    Carbon Number

  • Findings & recommendation

    Carbon formation suspected due to relatively heavy feed

    Using standard catalysts carbon formation is expected


    JM alkalised catalyst at the top to avoid carbon formation

    Smaller size for high activity

    Larger catalysts at the bottom for optimised pressure drop

  • Summary

    Optimum combination of sizes and variants to:

    Avoid carbon formation

    Optimum pressure drop

    JM catalyst preferred


    Small alkalised catalyst at the top


    Large catalyst at the bottom

  • Case Study 2: Pressure drop & extended

    life benefit

    Customer in USA

    Plant capacity ~ 1700 MTPD

    Top fired reformer

    6 catalyst charges installed in 25 years operation span.

    Plant faced the problem of low catalyst life and high pressure drop for 10 years after commissioning.

  • Background

    The plant was commissioned in 1990

    Life of catalyst charges and pressure drop both were not satisfactory

    Life of each of competitors first 3 charges < 4 years

    Customer replaced the charge with another competitor but life achieved was still 4.3 years.

    First JM charge achieved a life of 5.6 years.

  • Longer catalyst life

    2.4 yrs 3.4 yrs 3.6 yrs 4.3 yrs

    Competitor A

    (3 charges) Competitor B

    KATALCOJM 25-4Q/23-4Q

    Johnson Matthey Catalyst

    Life 5.6 years

    +30% life

  • Savings with increased catalyst life

    The commercial benefits gained by customer with an increase of 30% in catalyst life

    (Basis: Average life of JMs catalyst 5.5 years and that of competitors catalyst 4 years)

    Cost of one overhaul

    Production loss during shutdown

    Cost of one primary reformer catalyst batch

  • Leading low PD product


    (4-hole) (QUADRALOBE)

    Nominal OD (mm) 19mm 19.7mm

    Nominal hole dia. (mm) 5.5mm 5.5mm

    Length (mm) 19.6 - 20.4 19.6 - 20.4

    Nominal TBD (kg/l) 0.9 0.9

    Average mean horizontal

    (radial) crush strength (kgf) >56 >100

    Relative pressure drop 1.0 0.76

    GSA (m2/m3) 343 346

    For the next charge, JM redesigned the catalyst bed and further optimized by using the new leading low pressure drop product.

  • Further savings with pressure drop


    2.4 yrs 3.4 yrs 3.6 yrs 4.3 yrs 5.6 yrs 5.1 yrs and running

    Competitor A

    (3 charges) Competitor B

    KATALCOJM 25-4Q/23-4Q

    KATALCOJM 25-4GQ/57-4XQ

    Johnson Matthey Catalyst

    Lower pressure drop

    Second charge of Johnson Matthey reduced the pressure drop by 20% and is still in service from last 5.1 years with

    satisfactory performance.

  • Case Study 3: Steaming for carbon


    Customer in western Europe

    Plant capacity ~ 1450 MTPD

    Top fired reformer

    Feedstock for the plant is LPG which is a challenging duty.

    Plant faced the problem of carbon formation due to feeding LPG condensate during startup.

  • Carbon formation incident

    During startup, LPG condensate trapped in line was fed into the primary reformer which resulted in carbon formation over the catalyst.

    The pressure drop over the

    reformer increased by 1 bar and went upto 4.2 bar.

    Hotspots were observed over the length of tube.

    Customer reported the incident to JM and mentioned that they need to keep the plant in operation.

  • Improvement with higher S:C ratio

    JM recommended to operate at higher S:C to control carbon and to steam the catalyst in next available oppurtunity.

    Appearance improved in

    short period of time with higher S:C operation.

    Pressure drop reduced by 0.3 bar.

    TWT of the hot tubes also came down.

  • 0 5 10 15 200






    0. 5


    1. 5


    Time (Hours)


    + C







    er (p







    re d

    rop (b



    CO + CO2 Pressure Drop

    Steaming of catalyst

    Due to some reason, plant tripped after two months operation and allowed full steaming.

    Carbon removal profile

  • Recovery of catalyst activity

    Hot patches not visible due to carbon removal by


    TWT and pressure drop reduced considerably

    The catalyst charged performed satisfactorily for

    4 more years after carbon

    formation incident.

  • Summary

    The high strength of JM catalyst restricted any breakage even after feeding of LPG condensate. This allowed the

    customer to recover the pressure drop.

    Life of tubes was not adversely affected due to JMs catalyst capability of regaining the activity.

  • Customer in western Europe

    Plant capacity at commissioning~ 1750 MTPD

    Present capacity ~ 2050 MTPD

    Top fired reformer

    ICI catalyst Katalco 57-3 was installed at commissioning and provided 10 years of life.

    Plant interested in increasing the capacity.

    Case Study 4: Increase in plant rate

    managing P

  • Enhanced shape and higher activity

    catalyst catering higher load

    KATALCOJM57-4G 4-hole catalyst replaced previous charge and had

    achieved a 10 year life

    ~10% increase in plant load including pre reformer addition.

    The higher surface area of 4 hole catalyst helped customer to cater the

    increased load

    The picture of discharged catalyst pellets points out the high strength of

    JM shaped catalyst.


    after 10 yrs service

  • Reduction in pressure drop

    In early 2000, plant increased the production to 2000 MTPD and were interested in any further pressure drop


    Installation of new KATALCOJM 57-4XQ has given even lower pressure drop

    Pressure drop reduced by 24%

    Detailed performance surveys completed

    Confirmed expected catalyst performance

    Allowed plant to reach record rates

    Pressure Drop

    2.3 bar (earlier)

    1.8 bar with


  • Summary

    All 3 charges of catalyst since 1987 have achieved 10 years of operation.

    All the charges used different shapes and the performance of all catalyst charges had been excellent.

    The variations in shapes and sizes enables JM to optimize the catalyst bed for every customer according to their specific


  • Case Study 5 Feedstock changeover

    Customer in India

    Capacity 1350 MTPD

    Installed in Aug 1999

    Feedstock as naphtha (100%) till Apr 2004

    Same charge operated on mixed feed (naphtha + NG) till April 2007

    100% feedstock converted during April 2007

    Smooth feedstock changeover experienced

    No issues on performance of primary reformer

    Discharged catalysts didnt show loss of potash or strength

  • Customer in India

    Second charge commissioned in 2007 for NG as feedstock

    2 decker catalyst combination

    50:50 alkalised and non-alkalised

    Unidense loading

    Operates around 105% of rated capacity

    Lasted for 7 years without any issues

  • Performance

    Consistence methane slip

    Steady pressure drop

    Good physical integrity

    Time on line


    Methane slip

    (% mol, dry)

    Norm. Pressure

    drop (kg/cm2)

    1737 12.21 2.96

    1912 11.52 2.9

    2166 12.75 3.06

    2235 12.9 3.11

    2483 12.49 3.12

    2563 12.82 3.03


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