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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)


Page 744

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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