Petrochemical (Petroleum and Chemical) Catalysts

Published - Jul 2001| Analyst - Charles Forman| Code - CHM027B
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Report Highlights

  • Total U.S. merchant sales of catalysts for chemical and petroleum refining processes are estimated at about $2.2 billion in 2000.
  • The total U.S. market value is expected to increase at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 3.9% to $2.659 billion by 2005.
  • The chemical catalysts segment is estimated at just under $1.1 billion in 2000 and, growing at an AAGR of 4.1%, is expected to exceed $1.3 billion in 2005.
  • Petroleum refining catalysts are a slightly bigger current market at $1.125 billion in 2000. This segment is predicted to grow at a 3.7% AAGR to about $1.35 billion in 2005.
  • Growth in the petroleum refining segment is spurred by increasing demand for less-polluting gasolines mandated by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, plus new regulations calling for drastic reductions in sulfur content in gasolines and diesel fuel.



Catalysts and the products made with them are all around us, even though most people know neither what a catalyst is nor what they do. Some experts claim that catalysts are involved in the manufacture of products that represent about one-quarter of the entire U.S. Gross National Product. Considering that a high percentage of chemical and refined petroleum products are made via catalytic reactions (some experts put the percentage at 90% or higher for chemicals), this percentage seems logical.

Virtually every polymer, whether it is a synthetic fiber, a plastic resin, or an elastomer, is made with a catalytic process. Other chemicals, from pharmaceuticals to pesticides, are produced catalytically. In petroleum refining, it is catalytic processes that allow refiners to produce the broad mix of fuels and other products that drive today's economy.

And there is an entire body of catalysis, outside the scope of this report, in environmental correction; the most obvious examples are catalytic converters on automobiles that clean up auto exhausts. Even our bodies are operated by catalysts, the biological catalysts called enzymes, another important area of biocatalysis that is outside our scope as well.

Catalysts have been used commercially for more than a century, dating from the Deacon and contact processes, first used in the late 1800s. Fritz Haber's ammonia synthesis of 1908 can be considered the process that heralded the birth of modern industrial catalysis. The industry has grown to the point where some catalyst markets are mature, most continue to grow at moderate rates in keeping with chemical and refining process technology and in general, and some, such as the single-site/metallocene polymerization catalysts, have become a major growth area.

Our goal in this report is to describe the compounds, products, and markets for catalysts that we describe as "petrochemical." That is, catalysts which are used in petroleum refining; in petrochemical processes in which the feedstocks come from crude oil or natural gas; and in chemical reactions/processes in which the feedstock materials may come from other sources. This is big ; the petrochemical industry in the U.S., driven by production of synthetic polymers, is one of the nation's largest.

Catalysis is highly technical, and its products and markets are large and diverse. The industries and applications that we cover are discussed below in "Scope."


Catalysts are important materials of commerce, even if most people do not realize how catalysts touch them every day. Most of us drive cars fueled with high- octane unleaded, often oxygenated or reformulated, gasoline which is all blended with components produced in catalytic oil refinery processes. We use plastic products everywhere, in everything from automobile interiors to much of our packaging. And most likely the pharmaceutical products we use have been made with at least one step a catalytic reaction. Most of the food we eat has been grown on land fertilized with an ammonia-based fertilizer; until the catalytic Haber ammonia process was developed, there was no way to "fix" nitrogen from the air to make it available for incorporation into chemical products.

Some other applications of catalysts and catalytic reactions are not as well known to the average person, but are no less important, since they affect the manufacture of a vast number of chemical and other products in other important commercial and consumer es and markets.


BCC performed this study to provide a comprehensive reference for those interested and/or involved in these products; this covers a wide and varied group of petroleum, petrochemical, chemical, and other companies that make and supply catalysts, chemicals, process technology, and equipment. Other interested parties will be designers and marketers, politicians of all stripes, and the general public. We have sorted through and condensed information from a large amount of literature and other reference materials to compile this report.


This report is intended to assist those involved in several different segments of the U.S. industrial and commercial sectors. These organizations and people include those who are involved in the development, formulation, manufacture, sale, and use of catalysts, catalytic processes, and ancillary es such as catalyst supports, additives, and regeneration. This audience includes process and product development experts, process and product designers, purchasing agents, construction and operating personnel, marketing staff, and top management. BCC feels that this report will be of great value to technical and personnel in the following areas, among others:

1.      Marketing and management personnel in companies that produce, market, and sell petrochemical (that is, chemical and petroleum refining) catalysts.

2.      Companies involved in the design and construction of process plants which use catalysts.

3.      Financial institutions that supply money for these facilities.

4.      Personnel in end-user companies and industries, such as chemical processing, packaging, and consumer and household products.

5.      Personnel in government at many levels, primarily at the federal level, but also state and local environmental and other regulators who must implement and enforce the laws regarding water and air quality, etc.


This study covers many of the most important technological, economic, political, and environmental considerations in the U.S. catalyst industry. It is primarily a study of U.S. markets, but because of the global nature of chemistry it touches on some noteworthy international activities; these are primarily those which can have an impact on the U.S. market, such as imports/exports and, increasingly, foreign firms which operate here.

All market value forecasts are given in constant 2000 dollars, and growth rates are all compounded. Market values are all rounded to the nearest million dollars. Because of rounding to the nearest million, some growth rates may not agree exactly with figures in the market tables, especially for small values.

This report is segmented into ten sections, of which this is the first.

The Summary encapsulates our findings and conclusions, and includes the summary major market tables. It is the place where the busy executive can find the major findings of the study in summary format.

We follow with an Overview to catalysis and catalysts, with some history of the principal types of catalysts and catalytic reactions, and processes and materials used to produce catalysts. Its intent is to introduce the reader to the field of chemical catalysis.

The next section discusses and forecasts markets for catalysts used in chemical processes; that is, processes which usually do not take place in a petroleum refinery. We subdivide the market into catalysts for six large classes of catalytic chemical reactions: hydrogenation, dehydrogenation, organic synthesis, oxidation, polymerization, and synthesis gas/syngas processes. Our market analysis and forecast is for base year 2000 and forecast year 2005, all in constant 2000 dollars.

Next we discuss and forecast the markets for catalysts used in petroleum refining. Processes analyzed and forecasted include the six basic classes of catalytic refining processes: alkylation, fluid catalytic cracking (FCC), hydrocracking, hydrotreating/
desulfurization, isomerization, and catalytic reforming. In addition, we cover gas processing.

The next section is devoted to catalyst technologies, with major emphasis on new catalyst technologies. These continue to be exciting times in catalysts, for example, with continuing development of more homogeneous catalysts, single-site catalysts for polymerization of major plastics, chiral catalysts for fine chemical syntheses, and others.

The next section covers some important facets of government regulation and public policy. Catalysts are not as regulated as many other industries are, but political forces have driven the petroleum refining industry for years, and continue to this day, with greater emphasis on cleaner burning fuels. For this reason our prime discussion is on governmental regulations regarding refined motor fuels.

The next section covers the structure and activities of the catalyst industry, with emphasis on the major domestic producers and suppliers, customer service, and the growing trend in supplier-user alliances. We briefly discuss some international aspects of the catalyst , including the global nature of the , major foreign-owned supplier companies, which operate in the United States, and imports and exports.

Our last narrative section consists of profiles of those supplier companies that BCC considers to be among the most important in these es. There are many more companies that operate in one or more niche markets, but which in our opinion are not important enough to be considered major producers and suppliers.

We end with a glossary of some important terms, abbreviations, acronyms, etc. used in the chemical, petroleum, and catalyst industries.

The scope of this study is restricted to catalysts used in the chemical process industries (CPI) in process operations. We define the CPI broadly to include petroleum refining (an industry sometimes called the hydrocarbon processing industry or HPI). By confining our study to process catalysts, we do not cover a major market, large enough to deserve a study of its own, of environmental catalysts, primarily for air pollution control. Because such environmental catalysts are chemical catalysts, we do introduce them and their applications in the overview section; however, we do not make market forecasts for environmental catalysts since they are outside the scope of this study.

Since this study focuses on chemical catalysts, we also exclude from our market analyses biocatalysts (such as enzymes), electrocatalysts, photocatalysts (catalysts that allow light or other waves in the electromagnetic spectrum to influence reactions and processes), and other exotic ideas such as sonocatalysts (high-frequency ultrasound waves that generate heat and pressure). These are all exciting fields of study, but are outside the scope of this report. We do introduce a couple of these ideas in the Technology section.

Please note that there are some new and exciting areas of catalysis, discussed in the Overview and/or Technology sections, which are either (1) outside the scope of this study (e.g., environmental catalysts) or (2) new, cutting edge technologies like photocatalysts, which are too new and small to attempt to analyze and forecast. The products and markets which we analyze and for which we forecast sales are those in the sections on commercial catalysts for chemical and refinery processes.

For consistency in style and format, trade names are indicated by initial upper case letters and the ® or ™ symbols at the end of the name (such as Platforming®), while generic names are all in lower case. Because many chemical names are long and complicated, we often use abbreviations, acronyms, or chemical formulae. Many of these acronyms, such as HDPE and PVC for common polymers, are in capital letters.

Chemical elements and compounds can all be designated by chemical symbols and formulae; after introducing the element or compound we often use such symbols, such as Ni for nickel and HF for hydrofluoric acid. Our glossary at the end contains definitions and explanations for many of the most important abbreviations and acronyms. We do assume that most readers have at least an initial introduction to chemistry and understand the principles of chemical nomenclature.


Searches were made of the literature and the Internet, including many of the leading trade publications, as well as technical compendia and government publications. Much product and market information was obtained whenever possible from the companies involved. The information for our corporate profiles was obtained primarily from the companies, especially the larger publicly owned firms. Other sources included directories, articles, and Internet sites.

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