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Advances in Octane Enhancement

See Report TofC here (as PDF)

You are no doubt watching with interest the shifts in transportation fuel demand and the increasing “octane deficit” which has resulted, highlighting the importance of octane enhancement from refineries, whether it be via reforming, isomerization, alkylation, or alcohol/ether routes. As of January 1, 2017, U.S. operable atmospheric crude distillation capacity reached 18.6 million barrels-per-calendar-day (BPCD), 1.6% higher than at the beginning of 2016, slightly lower than last year’s increase of 2.0%. Also increased were the capacities of secondary units that support heavy crude oil processing and production of ultra-low sulfur diesel and gasoline, including thermal cracking (coking), catalytic hydrocracking, and hydrotreating/ desulfurization. Catalytic hydrocracking and de-asphalting units experienced the largest capacity increases over the past year, 4.5% and 6.1%, respectively. The trend over the past five years or so, if continued, will grow the distillation capacity in the U.S. to 20.1 MMBPCD in 2022.

Analysts in the transportation fuel and energy sectors in the U.S. economy, and globally, should ready themselves for the continuation of the current capacity trend, while at the same time considering possible other scenarios. A recently completed technical report exclusively for members of TCGR’s Catalytic Advances Program (CAP), entitled Advances in Octane Enhancement, examines, on a global basis, the state of the art in gasoline octane enhancement, recent advances in this area, and future trends, goals and opportunities. The report centers on the catalytic processes involved in the production of various octane blendstocks, their relation to technologies used, and their dependence on the properties of catalyst materials. Guidance is provided for prospective directions to improve the catalytic performance of the industrial processes of producing octane components, including: (1) catalytic reforming; (2) catalytic isomerization; (3) alkylation; and (4) oxygenates (including bio-derived alcohols and ethers). TCGR’s Catalytic Advances Program (CAP) is playing an important role in keeping industry decision makers and R&D scientists up to date around the world.

Catalytic reforming is a must in the refinery industry because there is no viable substitute for this technology leading the processing of heavy naphtha to produce either aromatics for sale, or gasoline. Many reforming units are old and based on the fixed-bed technology. Due to shifting demands for reformate and hydrogen products, and changes in feedstocks and in product specifications, many refiners are currently operating their old units with feed quantities, feed qualities and unit severities that are significantly different from those for which those units were originally designed.Based on the most current information available today, it is anticipated that for the next few years, U.S. gasoline will continue to depend on ethanol as major oxygenate, and on alkylate for better octane and less volatility, with butane still being added to gasoline, to adjust octane and RVP. There is no strong sign that bioETBE or bioTAEE will soon join as oxygenates in the U.S. in large quantities, even though they could be readily produced in existing MTBE units, using the available facilities and utilizing a very similar catalytic technology. No other oxygenate options appear acceptable and practical for now. In terms of catalysis, reforming appears to have less need and opportunity for significant improvement, whereas isomerization and alkylation may further improve, even considerably, by employing novel solid acid catalysts of better performance and higher stability. Detailed technological developments, catalytic process advances in R&D, and management guidance are all part of Advances in Octane Enhancement.

TCGR’s Catalytic Advances Program (CAP) is an information resource for research and development organizations in the chemical, polymer, and petroleum industries. Depending on their membership choice, CAP members may receive all three or just two annual technical reports as well as the weekly newsletter known as CAP Communications. This newsletter provides the latest updates on technical breakthroughs, commercial advancements, noteworthy conference proceedings, and exclusive development opportunities. Membership also includes attendance at a CAP Annual Meeting, with dates, location, and topics selected by the membership.

More information about this and other services of the CAP Program
can be seen at http://www.catalystgrp.com/php/tcgr_catalyticadvancesprogram.php.
Call +1-215-628-4447 or e-mail Matthew A. Colquitt at mcolquitt@catalystgrp.com,
and we’ll be happy to discuss these and other interesting membership benefits.

Report Published November 2017

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The Catalyst Group Resources (TCGR), a member of The Catalyst Group, is dedicated to monitoring and analyzing technical and commercial developments in catalysis as they apply to the global refining, petrochemical, fine/specialty chemical, pharmaceutical, polymer/elastomer and environmental industries.