New catalytic cracking technologies revealed at CatCon2002

Jeannie Stell
Survey Editor

Houston, June 5 -- New catalytic cracking technologies for crude oil refining, chemical production, nanotechnology, and gas-to-liquids projects were unveiled at the sixth annual catalyst conference held here June 3-4 by Catalyst Group Resources, Spring House, Pa.

CatCon2002 created an international forum for papers on catalyst nanotechnology, refining and petrochemical process synergies, and GTL catalyst developments, among others.

During the last decade, US refiners have reduced their in-house catalyst research and development centers by half. Catalyst suppliers and independent R&D firms filled the void with efforts to create technology breakthroughs in catalytic cracking.

Warren Letzsch, Stone & Webster Engineering Inc., presented a new, low-temperature reactor technology in his paper, "FCC catalytic pyrolysis to C2s and C3s." Based on the FCC process and coupled with a specially designed dual-zeolite catalyst, the process enables a refinery to reconfigure operations to produce high-value propylene and ethylene from heavy, paraffinic crudes. China, where a shortage of natural gas and LPG feedstocks exist, is a typical region that would benefit from this technology.

A presenter from Hyperion Catalysts International Inc. explained new developments in nanotechnology, as it applies to catalyst materials. These materials represent a cost savings for fixed-bed reactors due to stronger interactive support for metals and reduced precious metals requirements.

According to Sasol Technology R&D, upgraded cobalt catalysts for use in Fischer-Tropsch GTL processes are an alternative to iron catalysts in low-sulfur feedstock operations. GTL is gaining renewed interest as a solution to the challenge of tightening restrictions for natural gas flaring by state governments and monetizing stranded natural gas reserves. This encourages GTL catalyst technology as well as larger plant designs to enhance economics.

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