Analytical Laboratory Evaluations Services


EmeraChem uses sophisticated laboratory analyses to characterize the chemical and physical properties of a catalyst.  These analyses are an essential part of new catalyst development and routine process control measurements within the manufacturing plant.

In the hands of our engineers and chemists, these tools also provide clear root cause answers to forensic investigations of why a catalyst performance has declined.  Equipped with an understanding of the root cause, our engineers help customers avoid or minimize the causes, reverse them, and extend catalyst operating life.
EmeraChem’s headquarters is located in one of the great science centers of the U.S.  Home to the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and numerous supporting technical businesses, this area has the most advanced analytical laboratories available anywhere.  EmeraChem collaborates with these laboratories to bring benefits and value to its customers.

Analytical methods used by EmeraChem include the following:

  • Chemisorption

  • EDS – Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy

  • ICP-MS – Inductively Coupled Plasma/Mass Spectroscopy

  • ICP-OES – Inductively Coupled Plasma/Optical Emission Spectroscopy

  • SEM – Scanning Electron Microscopy

  • SEM-EDS - Scanning Electron Microscopy with Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy

  • TEM – Transmission Electron Microscopy

  • TEM/STEM-EDX – Transmission Electron Microscopy/Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy with EDS Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy

  • TGA/DTA – Thermal Gravimetric Analysis/Differential Analysis

  • TOF-SIMS – Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Spectrometry

  • WDS – Wavelength Dispersive Spectroscopy

  • XPS – X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy

  • XRD X-Ray Diffraction

  • XRF – X-Ray Fluorescence

  • BET Surface Area

A typical diagnostic approach would include the following steps:

  • Customer removes a catalyst test coupon or full size element and ships to EmeraChem’s Knoxville laboratory along with specific information that may be related to performance decline, such as normal and maximum operating temperatures, fuel type and sulfur content, etc.

  • EmeraChem’s engineering technician carefully removes a very small portion of the catalyst coating from the catalyst substrate for use as a diagnostic sample.  The catalyst function is not affected and can be returned to service.

  • Using strict chain of custody, the coating samples are submitted to approved independent analytical laboratories for measurement of specific catalyst characteristics.

  • Depending on initial findings, EmeraChem may submit additional samples for other types of characterization analysis.

  • An EmeraChem engineer produces a report for the customer summarizing and interpreting the analytical results along with specific recommendations for minimizing or preventing future catalyst degradation, and for reversing the degradation and restoring catalyst performance.

The analytical methods selected for the evaluation are selected based on the type of catalyst, operating service, and other engine-specific information that could relate to a decline in catalyst performance.  The analyses are done in a stepwise sequence to identify an obvious cause of the degradation at the lowest cost.  Normally, an initial set of analyses (Phase 1) are performed that identify the cause.  If the results are not conclusive, additional analyses would be recommended to the customer.

Phase I (one or more of the following)

  • Elemental analysis to detect the presence of and measure the concentration of possible catalyst masking agents and poisons.

  • Internal surface area and porosity of wash coat to determine if thermally or chemically induced changes have occurred.

  • Chemical speciation to further define/confirm thermally or chemically induced changes.

  • Nano-scale microscopic analysis to further define catalyst masking agents or poisons.

Phase 2
Additional analyses that may be necessary include further nano-scale microscopic elemental analysis and techniques to measure precious metal dispersion.  Customer authorization is required before this additional work is undertaken.

EmeraChem’s Catalyst Washing System is a proven, effective performance regeneration process.  This know-how comes from operating a catalyst chemical manufacturing plant for over 20 years.  This proprietary technology is a vital service provided by EmeraChem and EmeraChem’s authorized Catalyst Service Centers located around the country.

Our chemical washing process utilizes modern chemical processing equipment, methods, and procedures specified by EmeraChem chemical engineers and used daily in our chemical processing facility.  EmeraChem deploys this process at two scales:

  • A large-scale system located at our manufacturing plant for processing 40 to 1000 combustion turbine catalysts
  • A small-scale system located at our manufacturing plant and at Catalyst Service Centers around the country for processing 1 to 40 reciprocating engine catalysts

The work is carried out by trained chemical technicians using proper health and safety equipment and protocols.  Spent chemical solutions are neutralized and disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner in accordance with discharge permits from regulatory authorities.

Our chemicals solutions have been carefully selected

EmeraChem chemists specified the chemical cleaning solutions as most compatible with the catalyst formulations and most effective at removing a variety of chemical contaminants and ash.  EmeraChem specifies the purity grade of these chemical reagents and prequalifies all chemical suppliers.  The effectiveness of these cleaning chemicals has been proven time after time and can be used with confidence.

We use fresh chemical solutions for each batch to prevent cross-contamination.

A key advantage to EmeraChem’s catalyst washing process is the use of fresh chemical solutions for each batch of catalysts.  Our customers are assured that their catalyst elements won’t become contaminated by the masking and poisoning agents from someone else’s catalyst.  Reusing wash solutions creates risks such as cross-contamination of elements, or poor cleaning due to diluted batches of unknown quality. The chemical makeup each of our batches of solution is based on a known recipe and the results are predictable. 

Our process is a recirculation process for deep cleaning

Using the right chemical solutions in the correct sequence is essential.  But that’s not sufficient.  Experience has taught that simply soaking catalyst in a solution is not enough to remove a majority of the contaminants and masking agents.  EmeraChem uses chemical recirculation pumps and a special manifold to continuously flush the solutions through the cells of the element for deep cleaning.  This is an effective way to release contaminants from the catalyst, particularly from within the interior surfaces and catalyst pores.  Circulating the wash solutions is a more effective cleaning process and it yields higher gains in catalyst performance.

All catalyst washing is NOT alike!

Nowadays everyone says they offer catalyst washing.  But if they’re not involved in the development and manufacture of catalyst then they probably don’t understand the controlled chemical reactions used to remove chemical contaminants and regenerate a nano-scale catalyst surface.  They often dip or soak elements in a series of tanks using the wrong chemical solutions in the wrong sequence.  They don’t recirculate and they guess at the soak time.  It’s common to find them using dirty solutions over and over again, cross-contaminating your catalyst with someone else’s contaminants.  The effectiveness of this type of washing operation is unpredictable and is often harmful.  Make the wise choice about your catalyst maintenance – trust EmeraChem know-how.

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