Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1978-79
Year 1978-79, Volume 1 (1978-1979)
Alverson, Larry J.
Rhenium, pp. 743-749 ff. PDF (941.1 KB)
744 MINERALS YEARBOOK, 197 8-79 ers. In 1979 the semiregenerative monometallic reformers' share of capacity was eroded to 9%, as platinum-rhenium catalysts continued to gain in use over platinum catalysts. Together the three basic types of rhenium-utilizing reformers comprised a record 73% of domestic reforming capacity, or 2,883,700 barrels per stream day, while conventional platinum catalysts accounted for the remainder.2 It is estimated that platinum-rhenium catalysts now account for about 85% of bimetallic reforming capacity, or about 62% of total domestic reforming capacity. The trend for platinum-rhenium catalysts to capture more of the market should continue for several years. The 20 largest oil companies held 84% of total domestic catalytic reforming capacity, while 147 smaller companies held the remaining 16%.~ In 1978, the estimated market for reforming catalysts was about 5 million pounds. Approximately 70% of the market was for bimetallic catalysts, which were selling for $4.80 per pound without the precious metal. The cost of bimetallic replacement catalysts was nearly $17 million. In addition, an estimated $5.7 million was spent on monometallic platinum replacement catalysts, $1.9 million on recovering precious metal from catalysts, $8.8 million for replacing metal lost in recovery, and $2.2 million for metal used in new capacity scheduled to come onstream during the year. Thus, nearly $27.5 million was spent in the reforming catalyst market, approximately 70% of which was for bimetallic catalyst to replace the older monometallic type. Gross weight of existing catalysts in domestic reformers totaled about 15.5 million pounds in 1978, with about 5 million pounds replaced during the year. Bimetallic catalysts generally contained 0.3% rhenium and 0.3% platinum. The newest generation of catalysts contain 0.6% or more rhenium, which helped increase demand for rhenium. Recovery of metals from reforming catalysts has become a strongly competitive business. Recovery of platinum averages 98% to 99%, and rhenium recovery reportedly averages about 93%. Platinum recovery costs for one company averaged $1.90 per pound. Engelhard Metals & Minerals Corp. and UOP Inc. were leading processors for domestic and foreign operations.4 The bimetallic platinum-rhenium catalysts employed in the reformers of the Cities Service Co. at Lake Charles, La., were licensed by two companies to Cities Service. Catalyst for one of the units has been regenerated 10 times and is reportedly functioning well. The ability to be regenerated is one of the attractions of the bimetallic over the monometallic catalysts. Undernormal conditions these catalysts can be regenerated almost indefinitely. However, conditions prevailing in 1978-79 were not normal. Refiners were trying to maintain high octane levels in low-lead and lead-free gasolines, which put a greater strain on the catalyst than occurs under more normal conditions. In view of this, 3 years between catalyst regenerations was considered a good performance. UOP had 12 continuous Platformers in operation with continuous catalyst cycles in which the initial catalyst charge reportedly was performing well. Four units have been operating in excess of 3 years, and an additional six units were scheduled to begin operation in 1979. Engelhard Minerals and Chemicals Corp. catalysts have been in use for many years and have undergone many regenerations. Over 60 units currently use the E-500 and E-600 series bimetallic catalysts. Most of the increased rhenium demand came from converting monometallic reformers to bimetallic reformers and increasing the charge capacity of existing bimetallic reformers. The following additions to charge capacity were made (barrels per stream day): Chevron Oil Co., 2,800, to the Bakersfield, Calif., refinery; Murphy Oil Co., 1,500, to the Meraux, La., refinery; Amoco, 1,000, to the Texas City, Tex., refinery; Arco, 3,000, to the Carson, Calif., refinery; Exxon Co., 60,000, to the Baytown, Tex., refinery; and Shell Oil Co., 1,500, to the Wood River, Ill., refinery. Phillips Petroleum Co. converted the 21,000-barrel-perstream-day reformer at Kansas City, Kans., from monometallic to bimetallic operation, and Pennzoil Corp. converted the 5,000barrel-per-stream-day refinery at Shreveport, La., from monometallic to bimetallic operation. Texaco Inc. was building a new 40,000barrel-per-stream-day reformer at Port Arthur, Tex. The $180 million project was expected to be completed by 1983. The new unit will increase Texaco's production of gasoline by about 2 1/2%, or 475,000 gallons per day, and boost the company's ability to make unleaded gasoline.~ Champlin Petroleum Co. was adding a new continuous catalytic reformer at its Wilmington, Calif., refinery; this was part
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