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Worldwide Refinery Processing Review (Individual Technology)

Publication date:2Q 2013
Item#: B1003

Catalytic reforming

Catalytic reforming transforms naphthenes and paraffins into aromatics and isoparaffins. This process serves two main objectives in the refinery: production of high-octane reformate for gasoline blending and production of high-value aromatics for the petrochemical industry. Reformers also supply considerable amounts of hydrogen needed for hydrotreating, hydrocracking, and isomerization; H2 supply coming from the reformer is becoming an increasingly important contributor to the refinery hydrogen network as more stringent fuel specifications are put in place necessitating greater H2 use in hydroprocessing units to meet these ultra-low requirements.

Regional factors will significantly influence the desired operating mode for the catalytic reformer to provide the strongest economic return on investment. Decreasing gasoline demand coupled with increased ethanol blending may necessitate US refiners to investigate reconfiguring existing cat reforming capacity to favor products other than reformate. With the ongoing shale boom resulting in domestic crackers running mostly light feeds, the production of aromatics from ethylene crackers is decreasing, opening an opportunity for cat reformers to help meet this loss in aromatics supply from crackers. In Europe where the outlook is one of decreasing demand for gasoline but increasing need for BTX, operation of the catalytic reformer centers on increasing aromatic yields. In Asia, significant demand for aromatics has dictated that the majority of catalytic reforming units be installed primarily as aromatics producers by being integrated into petrochemical facility. The Middle East is also expanding cat reformer capacity in the hopes of boosting aromatics output via integrated refinery and petrochemical complexes. For all these regions, H2 demand is rising as the US and Europe have already implemented ultra-low sulfur standards while many Asian and Middle Eastern nations are beginning to put in place more stringent fuel requirements following the leads of their western counterparts. As H2 needs within refineries continues to grow, the cat reformer will be seen as an important contributor in helping to meet H2 requirements within a plant.

The aromatics market is on an upswing with strong demand growth and many are now realizing the potential for increasing profits through catalytic reforming. Some refiners already switched operating conditions to maximize aromatics production instead of reformate. In addition to benzene and xylene, reformate also contains toluene and heavier aromatics, which can be converted to benzene and desired xylenes via hydrodealkylation, disproportionation, transalkylation, isomerization, or alkylation. By 2025, the aromatics market will account for 35% of the total naphtha supply, an increase from 27% in 2012 as the demand growth will outpace the supply, tightening markets. With the market ripe for aromatics, catalytic reforming is still an important unit. Furthermore, ethanol blending into the gasoline pool has been on an upward trend around the world, and blending ethanol displaces reformate in the gasoline pool, hence decreasing its demand. Going forward, integration of an existing cat reformer with a nearby PC plant to further boost aromatics output may become more attractive for refiners looking to maximize the value of existing reforming assets. Additionally, the catalytic reforming section features the latest trends and technology offerings, including:

Updated listings of planned, active, and recently announced catalytic reforming construction projects.

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The Review is sold for the exclusive use of the subscriber. No other use, duplication, or publication of the Review or any part contained therein is permitted without written consent from Hydrocarbon Publishing Company, P.O. Box 661, Southeastern PA 19399 (USA).

cat reforming, catalytic reforming, cat reformer, gasoline, octane, hydrogen, BTX, benzene, toluene, xylene, aromatics, naphtha