Studies on the deactivation and reactivation of spent hydroprocessing catalyst

  • Meena A. Marafi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A study is reported on the deactivation of hydroprocessing catalysts and their reactivation by the removal of coke and metal foulants. The literature on hydrotreating catalyst deactivation by coke and metals deposition, the environmental problems associated with spent catalyst disposal, and its reactivation/rejuvenation process were reviewed. Experimental studies on catalyst deactivation involved problem analysis in industrial hydroprocessing operations, through characterization of the spent catalyst, and laboratory coking studies. A comparison was made between the characteristics of spent catalysts from fixed bed and ebullating bed residue hydroprocessing reactor units and the catalyst deactivation pattern in both types of reactor systems was examined. In the laboratory the nature of initial coke deposited on the catalyst surface and its role on catalyst deactivation were studied. The influence of initial coke on catalyst surface area and porosity was significant. Both catalyst acidity and feedstock quality had a remarkable influence on the amount and the nature of the initial coke. The hydroenitrogenation function (HDN) of the catalyst was found to be deactivated more rapidly by the initial coke than the hydrodesulphurization function (HDS). In decoking experiments, special attention was paid to the initial conditions of coke combustion, since the early stages of contact between the coke on the spent catalyst surface and the oxygen are crucial in the decoking process. An increase in initial combustion temperature above 440oC and the oxygen content of the regeneration gas above 5% vanadium led to considerable sintering of the catalyst. At temperatures above 700oC there was a substantial loss of molybdenum from the catalyst, and phase transformations in the alumina support. The preferred leaching route (coked vs decoked form of spent catalyst) and a comparison of different reagents (i.e., oxalic acid and tartaric acid) and promoters (i.e., Hydrogen Peroxide and Ferric Nitrate) for better selectivity in removing the major foulant (vanadium), characterization and performance evaluation of the treated catalysts and modelling of the leaching process were addressed in spent catalyst rejuvenation studies. The surface area and pore volume increased substantially with increasing vanadium extraction from the spent catalyst; the HDS activity showed a parallel increase. The selectivity for leaching of vanadium deposits was better, and activity recovery was higher, for catalyst rejuvenated by metal leaching prior to decoking.
Date of AwardOct 1996
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorC.J. Mumford (Supervisor)


  • catalyst
  • deactivation
  • hydroprocessing
  • coke removal
  • metal removal
  • rejuvenation

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