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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 745

 RHENIUM 745 
of a $120 million modernization and expansion program to be completed in
early 1981. Gulf Oil Co. added a $60 million refiner to its Port Arthur,
Tex., refinery which will boost unleaded gasoline capacity by 30,000 barrels
per day. Hill Petroleum Co. was expanding catalytic reforming capacity by
15,000 barrels per day at a cost of $20 million at the Krotz Springs, La.,
refinery. Completion was expected by mid-1980. Vickers Petroleum Corp. was
upgrading its Platformer at Ardmore, Okia., to a continuous catalyst regeneration
type, which will result in more capability for producing unleaded gasoline.
 Based on total reforming capacity, 8 States have entirely bimetallic reforming
capacity; 21 States have none. The remaining 21 States have bimetallic reforming
capacity ranging from 12% of total capacity (Indiana) to 94% (Mississippi).
 Platinum-rhenium catalysts are also used in the production of benzene, toluene,
and xylenes by reforming. Reformate accounts for nearly one-half of domestic
benzene production; however, the production utilizes only a small proportion
of the rhenium used in catalysts. 
 The United States is the world's leader in catalytic reforming, averaging
3.84 million barrels per calendar day in 1978. Japan was second with 557,000;
followed by the United Kingdom, 452,235; Canada, 450,000; France, 
441,050; and the Federal Republic of Germany, 439,772. These countries account
for the majority of world consumption of bimetallic platinum-rhenium catalysts,
a large portion of which was produced in the United States. 
 An estimated 8% of rhenium consumption was accounted for by use in hightemperature
thermocouples, vacuum tube and flashbulb filaments, X-ray tubes and targets,
electrical contacts, heating elements, crucibles, semiconductors, electromagnets,
metallic coatings, ionization gages, and high-temperature nickel- and cobalt-base
alloys. 
 Rhenium coatings were used on electrical contacts to resist wear and arc
erosion. Rhenium reportedly performed better in this application than either
tungsten or platinum-ruthenium, which were also used. Rhenium was applied
to contacts for various engine magnetos because of its resistance to material
transfer. On initial interruption of a current, a thin oxide film is produced
that prevents sticking or welding of the contacts or the transfer of metal
across the gap. Restoration of the current causes layering of the oxide film
at a thickness that does not significantly impair the efficiency of the contact.
The resistance of rhenium to salt water corrosion is an important additional
advantage in marine 
engine magnetos. 
PRICES 
 In early 1978, the price for rhenium metal powder was about $375 per pound,
and for perrhenic acid, $350 per pound. These prices fell to nearly $300
per pound by late summer; however, by yearend, unofficial prices rose to
about $475 per pound for metal powder and $425 per pound for perrhenic acid.
In 1979, the price rose dramatically as demand for bimetallic catalysts 
outpaced available supply. By yearend 1979, the price for rhenium metal powder
rose to about $2,000 per pound, depending on grade, quantity, and buyer-seller
relationship. The reduction of tetraethyl lead in gasoline to meet air quality
standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency exacerbated the rhenium
price increases. 
FOREIGN TRADE 
 In 1978, U.S. imports for consumption of ammonium perrhenate reached the
record level of 11,192 pounds, valued at nearly $2.2 million. In 1979, 8,299
pounds was imported, valued at $3.3 million. Smaller amounts of metal powder
and wrought rhenium were also imported. Chile and the Federal Republic of
Germany continued to be the major 
sources, together supplying over 99% of total imports in 1978, and 94% in
1979. 
 The import duty on ammonium perrhenate from countries with market economies
was 4% ad valorem; the duty on that from countries with central economies
was 25% ad valorem. The duty on rhenium metal from countries with market
economies was 


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