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THIS YEAR'S CATALYST report deals with a variety of options, issues, and tasks that refiners face in their catalyst programs. Covered are spent catalyst regeneration, catalyst selection processes, dense loading vs. sock loading, and new environmental regulations.
Together, the catalyst regeneration and metal reclamation industries help refiners control costs and limit future liabilities in the face of increasing regulation.
As refiners attempt to lower costs and comply with low-sulfur and hazardous waste regulations, they have increasingly relied on these facilities to manage their catalysts.
This article is the first in a series of two, and it covers the catalyst regeneration industry. The second article will review the major players in the metal reclamation and disposal industries.
Lower sulfur regulations have spurred the construction of new hydroprocessing units. Each barrel of hydroprocessing capacity adds new catalyst demand to the market. About 90% of the world's regenerated catalysts, according to Soren Marklund, president of Eurecat U.S. Inc., are hydroprocessing catalysts.
Regulations deterring catalysts from entering landfills have redirected spent-catalyst traffic from disposal options to regenerating and reclamation plants. In many cases, the potential liability associated with landfills provides enough justification to regenerate as much catalyst as possible.
Refiners have three options to deal with spent catalysts: regeneration, reclamation, or disposal (Fig. 1). By reusing their catalysts, refiners reduce catalyst costs as well as waste--often, however, at the expense of a shorter catalyst life.
Catalysts that have been deactivated by sulfur, coke, or carbon formation (for example, hydrotreating catalysts, hydrocracking catalyst, molecular sieves, precious metals reforming catalyst, petrochemical catalysts, and alumina) can be regenerated and reused. Regeneration can reduce both carbon levels and sulfur levels in spent catalyst to below 1% and can recover about 95% of the available surface area and catalyst [lengths.sup.1].
Spent catalysts that have aged or have been poisoned (feed contamination by lead, arsenic, silicon, sodium, nickel, or vanadium) sometimes can be regenerated. Usually, these poisons cause permanent inactivity that results in metals reclamation or disposal.
To present an accurate picture of the regeneration, reclamation, and disposal industries, major players are mentioned in this article. The refiner, however, should carefully conduct its own review of catalyst service companies to determine their suitability to its needs.
The most recent regulation to impact the U.S. spent catalyst industry is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) K-171/K-172 hazardous waste ruling (see accompanying article, p. 62. In June 1998, the EPA added spent hydrotreating catalyst and spent hydrorefining catalyst to its hazardous waste list (OGJ, July 13, 1998, p. 35). This regulation will be effective Feb. 8, 1999.
Before this ruling, spent catalysts were considered hazardous wastes only if they exhibited certain hazardous characteristics under EPA's toxic characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP) or if they were self-heating or pyrophoric.
Although the new rules will not affect the processes associated with catalyst regeneration and metals reclamation, they may affect the way these service companies store, handle, and dispose of catalyst. Hazardous wastes may be stored and transported in approved containers only. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) approved on-site bulk pads and …