Using an Adiabatic Pre-reformer

When excess steam is available at a plant, a pre-reformer can be installed at the reformer section (see Figure below). Adiabatic steam pre-reforming uses a highly active nickel catalyst to partially reform a desulfurized hydrocarbon feed, using waste heat (480°C) from the convection section of the reformer. The use of waste heat lowers the steam production in the convection section of the reformer furnace, reducing the primary reformer duty and hence gas consumption. While also reducing energy consumption, in general, the installation of a pre-reformer can reduce the size of the primary reformer by up to 25% (Haldor Topsoe, 2007). The technology can also be used to increase the production capacity at no additional energy costs. Installing a pre-reformer at an existing plant will typically increase production by 10-20% (Worrell and Galitsky, 2005 p.55; Abrardo and Khurana, 1995; Munch et al., 2007). Other benefits of the technology include the increased flexibility in terms of feedstock going to the steam reformer and the increased lifetime of the steam reformer and shift catalysts, as practically all sulphur in the hydrocarbon feed and process steam is absorbed by the pre-reforming catalyst (Haldor Topsoe, 2011; Patel et al., unknown date). Various suppliers provide pre-reformers, including Haldor-Topsoe, Süd-Chemie, and Technip-KTI. 

On the downside, there is an additional vessel which will increase the pressure drop. Life of prereformer catalyst is much shorter than reformer catalyst and hence may need frequent replacements (FAI, 2013).

Thi technology is applicable to older plants with excess steam production (A2A Toolkit). Addition of prereformer in existing plants merely for energy saving may not be techno-economically viable (FAI, 2013).

Indian Flag In India, eight plants installed pre-reformer either in the initial design to use naphtha along with gas feedstock or have incorporated it as a revamp mainly for capacity enhancement (FAI, 2013).

Development Status Products

Using an Adiabatic Pre-reformerCosts & Benefits

Parent Process: Steam Reforming
Energy Savings Potential

Energy consumption can be reduced by 4-10% (IPTS/EC, 2007; Nieuwlaar, 2001; Patel et al., unknown date)

Dutch flag In Netherlands, a plant in Rozenburg, energy savings of about 4% were realized with the installation of an adiabatic pre-reformer. (Worrell and Blok, 1994). 

CO2 Emission Reduction Potential

For a 2 000 t/day plant, the investment cost associated with the installation of a pre-reformer is reported to ¥280 million, resulting in a payback time of 1.7 years (ECCJ, 1999 p. 156). 

According to Nieuwlaar (2001) the investment cost is estimated at €7.5/GJ. 

Dutch flag For the plant in Netherlands, the installation costs for the adiabatic pre-reformer was estimated as $6/tonne ammonia, and the payback time was estimated to be  one to three years (in 1990 dollars) (Worrell and Blok, 1994).

Indian Flag For a 1500 tpd plant, the investments are in the range of US $ 10 million (2000 values) (FAI, 2013).

Using an Adiabatic Pre-reformerSchematic

Using an Adiabatic Pre-reformer Publications

ICARUS-4 - Sector Study for the Chemical Industry

This report by Evert Nieuwlaar provides information on energy consumption in 1995 and the energy consumption potential that exists within the chemical industry in the Netherlands. The data is intended for inclusion in ICARUS - 4 database, which gives an inventory of technical options for energy savings in all sectors in Netherlands. 

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Directory of Energy Conservation Technology in Japan - Section 3: Chemical Industry

Prepared by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization and the Energy Conservation Center, Japan, this extensive directory covers an extensive list of energy saving measures applicable to diverse range of industries. Section 3 concentrates on measures applicable to chemical industry, including ammonia production.

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Using an Adiabatic Pre-reformer Reference Documents

Reference Document on Best Available Techniques for the Manufacture of Large Volume Inorganic Chemicals - Ammonia, Acids and Fertilisers

Prepared by the Institute for Prospective Technical Studies of European Commision, this document provides detalied information on Best Available Technologies applicable to Ammonia production – as well as on the production of Acids and Fertilizers.  

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Using an Adiabatic Pre-reformer Guidelines

Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Saving Opportunities for Petroleum Refineries: An ENERGY STAR Guide for Energy and Plant Managers

This guide, prepared by Worrell, E. and C. Galitsky, provides detailed information on energy efficiency measures applicable to petroleum refineries, along with their energy and cost implications.

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Using an Adiabatic Pre-reformer Tools

Assessment to Action (A2A) Toolkit

Developed by IIP, in collaboration with energy expertsat ICF Marbek, members of the IFA and experts in China, the A2A (Assessment to Action) Toolkit is a free suite of resources on energy management and technology best practices created for ammonia companies. The A2A Toolkit provides a first-order, high-level assessment to identify and prioritize energy efficiency opportunities. It does so by drawing on various assessment modules on technical best practices, management best practices (based on ISO 50001 standard) and productivity improvements.