Catalysis 2024 Issue

Resiliency of fossil-based feedstocks W ith growing scepticism surrounding the future viability of electric vehicles, it stands to reason that peak fuel projections need to be extended beyond 2030. That will not stop refiners seeking to capture higher margin value through conversion of a wide range of petrochemicals. However, it seems that the demand for and production of transportation fuels will remain strong going into the next decade. The industry still benefits from investing in fuel diversity, including alternative feedstocks from biomass-derived materials, making catalytic upgrading essential, such as the onus on increasing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). For example, the Preem Lysekil refinery is upgrading its hydroc rack ing unit to increase SAF production by up to 1.2 million cubic metres per year (22,000 bpd) using Topsoe’s proprietary HydroFlex technology. One trend we see is that the economics of upgrading resid through the FCC are still strong. In a recent comment to the trade press, Dr Bani Cipriano, FCC Segment Marketing Manager at Grace, explained, “Our customers are taking advantage of this trend, processing heavier, higher metal laden feeds.” He added: “Using generic eco- nomics, in one trial we estimated use of PARAGON catalyst resulted in $0.65/bbl of value delivery which translates into $14MM per year for an average size FCC.” Researchers are developing catalysts tailored for the unique properties of bio- based feedstocks, contributing to the integration of renewable resources into tra- ditional refining and petrochemical processes. Investors are channelling significant capital into a wider range of renewable fuels. This includes the hydrogen sector, where several technology licensors are pushing forward with liquid organic hydro- gen carrier (LOHC) technology. In parallel with increased blue or green hydrogen production, scale-up is facilitated by LOHC technology that can efficiently transport hydrogen from a steam methane reforming (SMR) unit (for example) and into storage and pipeline networks for inte- gration with existing transportation and refinery infrastructure. However, there is still uncertainty about these future fuels, such as a relatively small group’s ability to deny a permit for a proposed Enbridge ammonia plant in Ingleside, Texas, influenced by a recent oil spill in the area. This is a good example of how an environmental incident in one sector of the energy industry (oil and gas) can affect the viability of an emerging sector, such as natural gas-based ammonia and hydrogen. Whether the US Administration’s decision to halt natural gas/LNG projects will affect investment in new hydrogen-related projects is cause for concern. Nonetheless, there are drawbacks to these bespoke technologies. For example, the use of toluene and other hydrocarbon-based carriers as a hydrogen carrier in LOHC technology may hinder permits. The potential for bio-based carriers for the hydrogenation and dehydrogenation phases of the process may eventually be developed. Furthermore, electrolysis-based technology for green hydrogen solu- tions is expected to be more expensive than blue or grey hydrogen production beyond 2030, at a time when the industry is keenly focused on cash preservation. It is no secret that sustainability must be on par with profitability. For exam - ple, with the industry’s dual focus on producing zero-emissions fuels and emis- sions control from major refinery conversion units, improved sustainability can be achieved with a wider operating window. FCC additives for emissions and regen- erator control can increase catalyst activity and efficiency, such as with the use of additives with more durable precious metals via support surface morphology, as will be discussed in the following pages of Catalysis 2024 .

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Rene Gonzalez


Catalysis 2024

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