Catalytic reforming is a chemical process used to convert petroleum refinery naphthas distilled from crude oil (usually having low octane scores) into high-octane liquid merchandise called reformates, that are premium mixing stocks for high-octane gasoline. The process converts low-octane linear hydrocarbons (paraffins) into branched alkanes (isoparaffins) and cyclic naphthenes, that are then partially dehydrogenated to produce excessive-octane aromatic hydrocarbons. The dehydrogenation additionally produces significant amounts of byproduct hydrogen fuel, which is fed into other refinery processes corresponding to hydrocracking. A side response is hydrogenolysis, which produces light hydrocarbons of decrease worth, akin to methane, ethane, propane and butanes.

Along with a gasoline blending stock, reformate is the main supply of aromatic bulk chemicals comparable to benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene which have diverse uses, most importantly as raw materials for conversion into plastics. Nevertheless, the benzene content of reformate makes it carcinogenic, which has led to governmental laws successfully requiring further processing to scale back its benzene content.

This course of is kind of totally different from and not to be confused with the catalytic steam reforming process used industrially to provide merchandise equivalent to hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol from natural fuel, naphtha or different petroleum-derived feedstocks. Nor is this course of to be confused with numerous different catalytic reforming processes that use methanol or biomass-derived feedstocks to supply hydrogen for gasoline cells or different uses.

1 Historical past
2 Chemistry 2.1 Typical naphtha feedstocks
2.2 The response chemistry

Within the 1940s, Vladimir Haensel,[1] a analysis chemist working for Common Oil Merchandise (UOP), developed a catalytic reforming course of using a catalyst containing platinum. Haensel’s process was subsequently commercialized by UOP in 1949 for producing a excessive octane gasoline from low octane naphthas and the UOP course of turn into identified as the Platforming course of.[2] The first Platforming unit was inbuilt 1949 at the refinery of the Outdated Dutch Refining Company in Muskegon, Michigan.

Within the years since then, many other versions of the method have been developed by some of the most important oil companies and different organizations. At this time, the massive majority of gasoline produced worldwide is derived from the catalytic reforming process.

To call a couple of of the opposite catalytic reforming variations that have been developed, all of which utilized a platinum and/or a rhenium catalyst:

– Rheniforming: Developed by Chevron Oil Company.
– Powerforming: Developed by Esso Oil Company, presently often known as ExxonMobil.
– Magnaforming: Developed by Engelhard and Atlantic Richfield Oil Company.
– Ultraforming: Developed by Normal Oil of Indiana, now part of the British Petroleum Company.
– Houdriforming: Developed by the Houdry Course of Corporation.
– CCR Platforming: A Platforming version, designed for steady catalyst regeneration, developed by UOP.
– Octanizing: A catalytic reforming model developed by Axens, a subsidiary of Institut francais du petrole (IFP), designed for steady catalyst regeneration.


Earlier than describing the reaction chemistry of the catalytic reforming process as utilized in petroleum refineries, the standard naphthas used as catalytic reforming feedstocks might be discussed.

Typical naphtha feedstocks[edit]

A petroleum refinery includes many unit operations and unit processes. The first unit operation in a refinery is the continuous distillation of the petroleum crude oil being refined. The overhead liquid distillate is named naphtha and can become a serious part of the refinery’s gasoline (petrol) product after it’s further processed by way of a catalytic hydrodesulfurizer to remove sulfur-containing hydrocarbons and a catalytic reformer to reform its hydrocarbon molecules into more advanced molecules with a higher octane score worth. The naphtha is a mixture of very many alternative hydrocarbon compounds. It has an initial boiling level of about 35 °C and a final boiling level of about 200 °C, and it incorporates paraffin, naphthene (cyclic paraffins) and aromatic hydrocarbons ranging from those containing 4 carbon atoms to these containing about 10 or 11 carbon atoms.

The naphtha from the crude oil distillation is usually additional distilled to provide a “light” naphtha containing most (but not all) of the hydrocarbons with 6 or fewer carbon atoms and a “heavy” naphtha containing most (but not all) of the hydrocarbons with greater than 6 carbon atoms. The heavy naphtha has an initial boiling level of about 140 to a hundred and fifty °C and a final boiling level of about 190 to 205 °C. The naphthas derived from the distillation of crude oils are known as “straight-run” naphthas.

It is the straight-run heavy naphtha that’s often processed in a catalytic reformer as a result of the sunshine naphtha has molecules with 6 or fewer carbon atoms which, when reformed, tend to crack into butane and lower molecular weight hydrocarbons which are not useful as high-octane gasoline blending components. Additionally, the molecules with 6 carbon atoms tend to type aromatics which is undesirable because governmental environmental laws in various countries restrict the amount of aromatics (most particularly benzene) that gasoline could comprise.[Three][4][5]

It ought to be famous that there are a great many petroleum crude oil sources worldwide and every crude oil has its own unique composition or “assay”. Additionally, not all refineries process the same crude oils and every refinery produces its personal straight-run naphthas with their own distinctive initial and closing boiling factors. In different words, naphtha is a generic term quite than a selected term.

The table just below lists some fairly typical straight-run heavy naphtha feedstocks, obtainable for catalytic reforming, derived from various crude oils. It may be seen that they differ considerably of their content of paraffins, naphthenes and aromatics:

Some refinery naphthas embody olefinic hydrocarbons, resembling naphthas derived from the fluid catalytic cracking and coking processes used in lots of refineries. Some refineries might also desulfurize and catalytically reform those naphthas. Nevertheless, for essentially the most part, catalytic reforming is primarily used on the straight-run heavy naphthas, such as those within the above table, derived from the distillation of crude oils.

The response chemistry[edit]

There are a lot of chemical reactions that occur within the catalytic reforming course of, all of which happen in the presence of a catalyst and a high partial stress of hydrogen. Depending upon the type or version of catalytic reforming used in addition to the desired reaction severity, the response circumstances range from temperatures of about 495 to 525 °C and from pressures of about 5 to forty five atm.[10]

The generally used catalytic reforming catalysts contain noble metals akin to platinum and/or rhenium, that are very vulnerable to poisoning by sulfur and nitrogen compounds. Subsequently, the naphtha feedstock to a catalytic reformer is all the time pre-processed in a hydrodesulfurization unit which removes each the sulfur and the nitrogen compounds. Most catalysts require both sulphur and nitrogen content material to be decrease than 1 ppm.

The 4 main catalytic reforming reactions are:[Eleven]

The hydrocracking of paraffins is the only one of many above 4 main reforming reactions that consumes hydrogen. The isomerization of normal paraffins doesn’t eat or produce hydrogen. However, each the dehydrogenation of naphthenes and the dehydrocyclization of paraffins produce hydrogen. The overall internet production of hydrogen within the catalytic reforming of petroleum naphthas ranges from about 50 to 200 cubic meters of hydrogen gasoline (at zero °C and 1 atm) per cubic meter of liquid naphtha feedstock. hydrochloric acid In the United States customary items, that’s equal to 300 to 1200 cubic feet of hydrogen gas (at 60 °F and 1 atm) per barrel of liquid naphtha feedstock.[12] In lots of petroleum refineries, the online hydrogen produced in catalytic reforming provides a significant a part of the hydrogen used elsewhere within the refinery (for instance, in hydrodesulfurization processes). The hydrogen can also be needed to be able to hydrogenolyze any polymers that type on the catalyst.

In practice, the upper the content material of naphtenes in the naphtha feedstock, the better will likely be the standard of the reformate and the upper the manufacturing of hydrogen. Crude oils containing the very best naphtha for reforming are sometimes from Western Africa or the North Sea, corresponding to Bonny light oil or Norwegian Troll.

Process description[edit]

The mostly used type of catalytic reforming unit has three reactors, each with a set bed of catalyst, and the entire catalyst is regenerated in situ throughout routine catalyst regeneration shutdowns which happen roughly once each 6 to 24 months. Such a unit is referred to as a semi-regenerative catalytic reformer (SRR).

Some catalytic reforming items have an extra spare or swing reactor and each reactor might be individually isolated so that anybody reactor might be undergoing in situ regeneration while the opposite reactors are in operation. When that reactor is regenerated, it replaces another reactor which, in flip, is isolated so that it could then be regenerated. Such units, referred to as cyclic catalytic reformers, are usually not quite common. Cyclic catalytic reformers serve to extend the interval between required

The newest and most trendy kind of catalytic reformers are called continuous catalyst regeneration (CCR) reformers. Such units are characterized by continuous in-situ regeneration of part of the catalyst in a particular regenerator, and by continuous addition of the regenerated catalyst to the working reactors. As of 2006, two CCR versions out there: UOP’s CCR Platformer course of[thirteen] and Axens’ Octanizing process.[14] The installation and use of CCR models is quickly rising.

Many of the earliest catalytic reforming units (within the 1950s and 1960s) have been non-regenerative in that they didn’t carry out in situ catalyst regeneration. Instead, when needed, the aged catalyst was changed by fresh catalyst and the aged catalyst was shipped to catalyst manufacturers to be either regenerated or to get well the platinum content of the aged catalyst. Only a few, if any, catalytic reformers currently in operation are non-regenerative.[citation needed]

The method flow diagram below depicts a typical semi-regenerative catalytic reforming unit.

The liquid feed (at the bottom left within the diagram) is pumped as much as the response stress (5-45 atm) and is joined by a stream of hydrogen-rich recycle fuel. The resulting liquid-fuel mixture is preheated by flowing via a heat exchanger. The preheated feed mixture is then totally vaporized and heated to the reaction temperature (495-520 °C) before the vaporized reactants enter the first reactor. Because the vaporized reactants stream via the fastened bed of catalyst in the reactor, the most important response is the dehydrogenation of naphthenes to aromatics (as described earlier herein) which is extremely endothermic and ends in a big temperature decrease between the inlet and outlet of the reactor. To take care of the required reaction temperature and the rate of reaction, the vaporized stream is reheated in the second fired heater earlier than it flows via the second reactor. The temperature again decreases across the second reactor and the vaporized stream should once more be reheated in the third fired heater before it flows by way of the third reactor. As the vaporized stream proceeds by means of the three reactors, the response rates decrease and the reactors due to this fact turn into larger. At the same time, the quantity of reheat required between the reactors turns into smaller. Usually, three reactors are all that is required to offer the desired performance of the catalytic reforming unit.

Some installations use three separate fired heaters as shown within the schematic diagram and a few installations use a single fired heater with three separate heating coils.

The recent reaction merchandise from the third reactor are partially cooled by flowing through the heat exchanger where the feed to the first reactor is preheated and then stream by means of a water-cooled heat exchanger earlier than flowing through the stress controller (Computer) into the fuel separator.

Many of the hydrogen-rich gas from the gas separator vessel returns to the suction of the recycle hydrogen gas compressor and the web production of hydrogen-rich gas from the reforming reactions is exported to be used in the other refinery processes that eat hydrogen (akin to hydrodesulfurization units and/or a hydrocracker unit).

The liquid from the fuel separator vessel is routed into a fractionating column commonly known as a stabilizer. The overhead offgas product from the stabilizer accommodates the byproduct methane, ethane, propane and butane gases produced by the hydrocracking reactions as explained within the above dialogue of the response chemistry of a catalytic reformer, and it may comprise some small quantity of hydrogen. That offgas is routed to the refinery’s central gas processing plant for elimination and restoration of propane and butane. The residual gasoline after such processing turns into part of the refinery’s gasoline gas system.

The bottoms product from the stabilizer is the high-octane liquid reformate that will turn out to be a element of the refinery’s product gasoline. Reformate might be blended instantly in the gasoline pool however often it is separated in two or extra streams. A standard refining scheme consists in fractionating the reformate in two streams, mild and heavy reformate. The light reformate has lower octane and can be used as isomerization feedstock if this unit is accessible. The heavy reformate is excessive in octane and low in benzene, therefore it is a superb blending part for the gasoline pool.

Benzene is commonly eliminated with a specific operation to scale back the content material of benzene within the reformate because the completed gasoline has typically an upper limit of benzene content (within the UE that is 1% quantity). The benzene extracted will be marketed as feedstock for the chemical trade.

Catalysts and mechanisms[edit]

Most catalytic reforming catalysts include platinum or rhenium on a silica or silica-alumina support base, and a few contain both platinum and rhenium. Contemporary catalyst is chlorided (chlorinated) prior to make use of.

The noble metals (platinum and rhenium) are thought of to be catalytic websites for the dehydrogenation reactions and the chlorinated alumina provides the acid websites needed for isomerization, cyclization and hydrocracking reactions.[Eleven] The largest care must be exercised throughout the chlorination. Certainly, if not chlorinated (or insufficiently chlorinated) the platinum and rhenium within the catalyst would be diminished almost instantly to metallic state by the hydrogen within the vapour section. On the other an excessive chlorination may depress excessively the exercise of the catalyst.

The exercise (i.e., effectiveness) of the catalyst in a semi-regenerative catalytic reformer is diminished over time during operation by carbonaceous coke deposition and chloride loss. The activity of the catalyst might be periodically regenerated or restored by in situ excessive temperature oxidation of the coke followed by chlorination. As stated earlier herein, semi-regenerative catalytic reformers are regenerated about as soon as per 6 to 24 months. The upper the severity of the reacting conditions (temperature), the upper is the octane of the produced reformate but additionally the shorter would be the duration of the cycle between two regenerations. Catalyst’s cycle duration can also be very dependent on the standard of the feedstock. Nevertheless, independently of the crude oil used within the refinery, all catalysts require a maximum final boiling level of the naphtha feedstock of 180 °C.

Normally, the catalyst may be regenerated perhaps three or 4 occasions earlier than it have to be returned to the manufacturer for reclamation of the precious platinum and/or rhenium content.[11]


Catalytic reformation is worthwhile in that it converts long-chain hydrocarbons, for which there is limited demand despite high supply, into quick-chained hydrocarbons, which, on account of their uses in petrol fuel, are in a lot higher demand. It can be used to improve the octane score of brief-chained hydrocarbons by aromatizing them.[15]

^ A Biographical Memoir of Vladimir Haensel written by Stanley Gembiki, published by the National Academy of Sciences in . 2006.
^ Platforming described on UOP’s website Archived December 30, 2006, on the Wayback Machine.
^ Canadian rules on benzene in gasoline Archived 2004-10-12 on the Wayback Machine.
^ United Kingdom rules on benzene in gasoline Archived November 23, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
^ USA regulations on benzene in gasoline
^ Barrow Island crude oil assay
^ Mutineer-Exeter crude oil assay
^ CPC Mix crude oil assay
^ Draugen crude oil assay Archived November 28, 2007, on the Wayback Machine.
^ OSHA Technical Handbook, Part IV, Chapter 2, Petroleum refining Processes (A publication of the Occupational Security and Health Administration)
^ a b c Gary, J.H.; Handwerk, G.E. (1984). Petroleum Refining Expertise and Economics (2nd ed.). Marcel Dekker, Inc. ISBN 0-8247-7150-eight.
^ US Patent 5011805, Dehydrogenation, dehydrocyclization and reforming catalyst (Inventor: Ralph Dessau, Assignee: Mobil Oil Corporation)
^ CCR Platforming (UOP webpage) Archived November 9, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
^ Octanizing Choices (Axens website)
^ Lichtarowicz, Marek. “Cracking and related refinery”. Retrieved 2017-12-03.

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