Catalysts are vital to the chemical industry and are now used in most industrial chemical processes. They help reduce environmental emissions and production costs thanks to greater chemical process efficiencies. Optimising catalytic effects (i.e. controlling reactions by the addition of small amounts of active material) requires a thorough understanding of a wide range of chemical phenomena and is a highly specialised science.
A catalyst is defined, by IUPAC, as: “A substance [i.e. matter of constant composition best characterized by the entities (molecules, formula units, atoms) it is composed of] that increases the rate of a reaction without modifying the overall standard Gibbs energy change in the reaction; the process is called catalysis. The catalyst is both a reactant and product of the reaction.”
Catalysts are as vital to a downstream facility as enzymes are to the human body. Process catalysts, a $13 billion-per-year business worldwide, play a vital role in the wider economy.
The value of products dependent on process catalysts, which include refined products, chemicals and petrochemical products, and many others, is said to be around $500–600 billion per year.
Rising petroleum prices, strict environmental regulations, and rising demand for diesel are some of the key factors driving growth in the market. Whilst new and stringent environmental regulations are boosting the demand for petroleum refining .catalysts in developed regions, rapid economic growth is driving the demand in developing regions, including the Middle East.