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Methaforming process offers lower-cost naphtha upgrading for refiners

By Scott Jenkins |

Petroleum refiners looking to upgrade low-octane naphtha have an additional option using a process that increases the higher-octane iso-paraffins and aromatic compounds at lower costs than currently available alternatives. Most refiners currently upgrade naphtha by hydrotreating followed by isomerization and continuous catalytic regeneration (CCR) reforming. A new process, known as Methaforming and licensed from New Gas Technologies Synthesis (NGTS; Houston; www.ngts.us), performs the upgrading in a single unit, without the need for hydrotreating. Replacing several processes with a single unit results in a capital cost one-third that of the alternative technologies, says Stephen Sims, NGTS president. Methaforming uses a proprietary zeolite catalyst that was originally developed by Russian researchers to convert methane to gasoline. When that line of research did not bear fruit, the catalyst was tested with other feeds, such as naphtha and raffinate from aromatics extraction. When used in a fixed-bed, adiabatic reactor with methanol injection, the catalyst dehydrogenates methanol to release methyl radicals, which initiate a series of reactions that convert linear paraffins in the low-octane feeds into dual branched iso-paraffins,…
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