Uses and properties
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.
ECMA is primarily focused on inorganic catalysts containing metals and metal oxides based on nickel, chromium, cobalt, copper, molybdenum and titanium. These products are used in a vast range of industrial applications including fine chemicals, refinery operations, edible oils, pharmaceuticals and polymers.
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."
A catalyst may be a gas, liquid or solid, and may function in single phase (i.e. gas or liquid only) or multi-phase (e.g. gas-solid) systems.
A catalyst is usually provided in the form of a catalyst precursor, consisting of a mixture of components, which require chemical activation before becoming catalytically active.
Some catalysts are consumed in the manufacturing process. Other catalysts can gradually lose their catalytic activity through structural changes, poisoning or the build-up of deposits. However it is often possible to regenerate and/or reclaim components, thus extending their use in an environmentally friendly manner.
The global catalyst industry had an estimated value of about €10 billion in 2009, and is expected to grow at a rate of 6% per year through to 2012. The European market represents over 20% of the world market and is expected to grow at a rate of about 5% per year reaching over €3 billion in 2012 (about 600,000 metric tons).
Like the majority of the chemical industry, catalyst manufacturers must comply with the REACH regulation. Most catalysts are considered to be mixtures of substances, and these individual substances must be registered separately under REACH by the catalyst manufacturer/importer or only representative. In many cases, there are consortia/SIEFs that cover the substances present in catalysts, but ECMA is working to ensure that the special nature of catalysts, and the needs of the catalyst sector, are taken into account to enable compliance with REACH and to ensure the sustainability of the catalyst industry.
Albemarle Catalysts Company BV (NL)
BASF SE (DE)
Basell Polyolefins GmbH (DE)
Borealis AG (FI)
Cri/Criterion, Inc. (BE)
Evonik Industries AG (DE)
Grace GmbH & Co. KG (DE)
Haldor Topsoe A/S (DK)
Honeywell UOP (BE)
INEOS Polyolefins (BE)
Johnson Matthey plc (GB)
PQ Silicas UK Ltd (PQ Corporation) (UK)
Polynt SA (IT)
- ECMA position paper on REACH and catalysts
- REACH Use mapping for polyolefin catalysts
- REACH : ECMA catalysts GES mapping of uses - guidance document
- FCC Equilibrium Catalyst (incl. FCC catalyst fines) finds safe reuse/rework outlets in Europe
- ECMA Guidelines for the Management of Spent Catalysts – February 2012
- ECMA - SPERC Factsheet - Manufacture of Metal-containing Catalysts