Reforming is a process designed to increase the volume of gasoline that can be produced from a barrel of crude oil. Hydrocarbons in the naphtha stream have roughly the same number of carbon atoms as those in gasoline, but their structure is generally more complex. Reforming rearranges naphtha hydrocarbons into gasoline molecules.
The reforming process involves three separate catalytic reactors, each one taking place under carefully controlled temperature and pressure levels. Naphtha is mixed with hydrogen and fed through each reactor chamber in sequence. Additional hydrogen formed by the catalytic reactors is recovered and put to use in subsequent reforming and in other processes throughout the refinery. The other products of reforming are light gases and a high-octane gasoline blending component called reformate.
The octane rating of reformate is important because it affects the octane rating of the gasoline you buy at the pump. By controlling the temperature and flow rate of the reformer, refinery operators can increase the octane rating of the reformate, but that also has the effect of producing less reformate. The reverse is also true: If demand for high-octane gasoline is lower, the reformer can be adjusted to produce more reformate with a lower octane rating.»next