Catalysts & Catalytic Processes

Catalysts and catalytic processes used in refining oil and in the production of pharmaceuticals, plastics, pigments, specialty chemicals, chemical feedstocks, and electricity are critical to global economic productivity. Processes such as hydrotreating, hydrodesulfurization, steam-methane reforming, electrolysis, and nitrogen fixation account for approximately 35% of global GDP. Refining catalysts for petrochemical production are valued at over $4 billion and anticipated to grow over the next several years, and process catalysts, a minority component of the global catalyst market, produce an estimated $500–600 billion worth of goods per year. The performance and reliability of these critical industrial technologies, as well as petrochemicals, automotive and industrial emissions treatment, electrolyzers, and fuel cells, depend on understanding the intersection of heterogeneous (e.g., particles, surfaces, and packings) and homogeneous (e.g., gas phase or liquid phase) catalysis with materials science, electrochemistry, fluid dynamics, heat transfer, and chemical kinetics.

The industries and products enabled by catalysts and catalytic processes depend on proper design, handling, and management of upsets during operation. When process shutdowns, production setbacks, material nonconformity, or safety incidents arise, root-cause determination requires understanding the interplay between catalyst activity, selectivity, life cycle, durability, design, and operation. At Exponent, our consulting staff has the experience, knowledge, and resources required to solve complex engineering and scientific problems involving catalytic processes, catalytic materials, and manufacturing, as well as issues related to catalyst design, operation, and handling. The interdisciplinary network of technical skills within Exponent promotes problem solving at all scales, from the macro systems level down to the molecular and atomic level.

Many catalytic materials and processes are closely held trade secrets or intellectual property. Exponent has an experienced team of scientists and engineers who can support dispute resolution by providing expert services to industrial and legal partners navigating the complexities of catalysts and catalytic processes—including their design, suitability, usage, and handling. Exponent’s consulting staff integrates process engineering, reaction engineering, surface science, and a deep understanding of material science and chemical physics with analytical, numerical, and experimental techniques to solve our clients’ problems.

Our portfolio of technical services includes:

  • Failure investigation and root-cause analysis of catalytic processes, systems, and materials
    • Fouling
    • Catalyst particle and surface damage
    • Pyrophoricity, fires, and explosions

  • Reaction engineering and chemical kinetics assessment of catalysts
    • Petroleum refining
    • Plastics – commodity and specialty
    • Pharmaceutical and fine chemical synthesis
    • Environmental & automotive

  • Heterogeneous and homogeneous catalytic systems performance review and assessment
    • Deactivation studies
    • Material characterization
    • Structure-activity relationship studies

  • Activity, durability, and systems analysis for the catalytic production of chemicals
    • Catalytic cracking or alkylation
    • Chlorine generation (chlor-alkali process)
    • Hydrogen & chemical fuel generation
    • Inorganic chemicals (i.e., pigments)

  • Activity, durability, and systems analysis for the catalytic production of energy
    • Fuel cells, including hydrogen, alkaline, methanol, and battery electric vehicle (BEV) hybrids

  • Intellectual property (IP) rights and disputes, including trade secrets and infringement
    • Catalyst formulation & operation

  • Litigation and arbitration support
    • Intellectual property
    • Catalyst suitability for use
    • Catalyst performance & durability
    • Failure investigations, including safety incidents

  • Technical due diligence

Professionals