Optimizing Semi Regen Reformer Runlengths | RefinerLink

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Optimizing Semi Regen Reformer Runlengths

By Process Pro Eric

Jun 18, 2012

If you have a runlength philosophy for regenerating your fixed-bed reformer that has not changed for a couple of years, you may want to revisit it again.                       


It's quite uncommon for refiners to define a shutdown strategy and not update it as market economics change.  The runlength strategy for regenerating a fixed-bed reformer among one of them. 


Historically, the dominating factor for semi-regen reformer runlength timing has been managing refinery hydrogen demand.  It makes perfect sense to pair a fixed bed reformer regeneration when a hydrogen consuming unit is down for maintenance. 


Over the recent years, however, there has been a fundamental shift in Natural Gas and LPG pricing that challenges refiners to re-assess every strategy of operation.  With the abundance of natural gas that hydraulic fracking has unlocked, understanding the impacts of de-activated reformer catalysts beds should be a high priority. 


Refiners should revisit semi-regen reformer runlength strategies even more today as increased ethanol blending and rising distillate strength has also had an effect on reformer operations.


As semi-regen reformer catalyst ages over time, the process requires more heat to meet reformate octane targets.  This higher heat input results in increased cracking of


desired reformate into LPG and fuel gas components. 


In the graphic to the left you’ll note that increased runlengths on a fixed bed reformer can degrade reformate yields by greater than 5% from start of run conditions. 


In addition to the loss of hydrogen production, extended catalyst aging has a very detrimental

impact on yields.  Several years ago the reformate yield degradation impact on refinery margin was lower, but currently this penalty is quite significant.  Note the trend of commodity prices over the last several years.






The differential between natural gas ($/FOEB) and gasoline was $ 43 /bbl in 2009, but has exploded to $110 /bbl in 2012.  Similarly, the spread between gasoline and LPG


prices have widened over the same time span from $33 /bbl to $75 /bbl.


Considering how more reformate cracks to lighter products at end of run conditions, this shift in market prices  magnifies the impact of non-optimal reformer runlength strategies.


For a 40 KBD semi-regen reformer,what used to be a $0.5 Million per month loss

in margin for a delayed catalyst regeneration has now turned into a $1.0 Million loss per month for every 1% yield degradation. 


On a 5% yield degradation scenario, a $2.5 Million per month loss increases to $5.0 Million per month!  It’s likely that many of you have not seen the impacts of lost reformer catalyst activity spelled out in hard dollars before, so these figures may seem staggering.


Given that market prices have inflated the penalty for extended semi-regen runlengths, I have just provided you the business case to re-evaluate your current reformer strategy.  No refiner ever likes increasing the frequency of shutdowns.  However, the economics highlighted above indicate a strong driver to do so.  


Do you not think that there is a compelling case to better optimize your fixed bed reformer runlength strategy?  I doubt that you will even need an LP to tell you the answer to this one.

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  • :   very interesting information. thank you for sharing.

    Jun 19, 2012

  • Hasan Asharif :   Thanks a lot I consider this paper a very practical guiding for best operating existing reformer units and could help produce more gasolines and may be at lower costs. Would you please send me PFD copy of this paper Thanks Hasan

    Aug 01, 2015

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