Health, Safety, and Environmental Management Systems Manual

Essentially, catalytic reforming is a process that employs petroleum refinery that uses products containing low octane distillation. Known as naphthas, a chemical conversion that changes these products into high octane reformates are involved. Products with high octane reformation are produced from naphthas and used in various industries. These products are also used as additives in commonly used products such a gasoline.

What is Involved During the Process

This reforming process encompasses the restructuring of hydrocarbon molecules in the naphthas. The way this occurs causes the molecules to form chemical structures that are more complex and include higher octane ratings. Additionally, reforming brings an added value by producing desirable by-products that can be used in other areas of the refinery.

Essentially, high octane petroleum products are considered hydrocarbon chemicals that are complex. These chemicals do not occur naturally and need more than a simple distillation of crude oil or coal tar to become complex chemicals. Synthesizing these complex hydrocarbons requires that the low octane naphthas, also called flammable hydrocarbon mixtures like kerosene, are subjected to the reforming of chemicals.

Versions of the Chemical Process

Several different versions exist for this chemical process. Each version produces a variety of reformed products that can be used in a number of ways. As extremely complex processes, the molecule structure of naphtha elements are rearranged. This breaks several of the molecules into smaller units during the process. In the end, the process leaves a much more compound hydrocarbon structure that has elevated octane values.

One of the distinct products from this method is benzene, which is widely used. Many industries include this product to use as a constituent of plastic, rubber, dye, drug manufacturing and as a solvent. In addition, benzene is also good when combined with other catalytic products that are reformed. An example is toluene, which boosts the octane ratings for gasoline. A more common term is petrol.

On its own, gasoline comes from fractional petroleum and is considered a low octane product. Another highly volatile reformate is isopentane. This is used with liquid nitrogen so it will obtain very low fluid temperatures.

Basic variants of this reforming process include:

  • Platforming
  • Powerforming
  • Thermoform reformation
  • Ultraforming

Each one of these processes use noble metal catalysts like rhenium and platinum along with high heat and pressure. This aids in achieving low octane naphthas reformation. Periodically, these catalysts are regenerated, usually every six to 24 months. The reforming process will also produce commonly used ethane, propane, hydrogen butane and methane gas byproducts.