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March 4, 2024

Catalysts: At the core of efficient industrial processes

Catalysts are the unsung heroes of the industrial world, playing a pivotal role in accelerating chemical reactions, controlling selectivity, and reducing energy requirements. These transformative agents have become indispensable in a wide range of industrial processes, from the production of fertilizers and chemicals to the creation of renewable fuels. They also lie at the core of the Topsoe business, connecting the company’s history to its present and future in decarbonization and industrial emission reduction.

At the heart of catalysis lies the ability to enhance the efficiency of chemical reactions without being consumed in the process. Catalysts facilitate the interaction and reaction between molecules and lower the activation energy required for the transformation to the desired end product. By reducing energy barriers, catalysts significantly increase reaction rates, often by factors of millions, revolutionizing the feasibility and economics of industrial processes.

Applications of catalysts

Catalysis has become a cornerstone of modern society, with approximately 90% of all commercially produced chemical products relying on this transformative process. Catalysts are used in diverse industries, including petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, food production, and energy. They enable the conversion of raw materials into valuable commodities, lower the cost of expensive processes, and improve air quality by reducing harmful emissions.

Catalysts in industrial processes

In the refining and chemical industries, catalysts are instrumental in optimizing process efficiency and product quality. For example, in petroleum refining, catalysts are used to convert crude oil into gasoline, diesel, and other valuable products. In the production of fertilizers, catalysts play a crucial role in the synthesis of ammonia, a key component in nitrogen-based fertilizers. Additionally, catalysts are vital in the production of polymers, pharmaceuticals, and specialty chemicals, where they enable precise control over reaction selectivity and product purity.

Driving the energy transition

As the world shifts towards a more decarbonized future, catalysts play a crucial role in enabling the energy transition. Topsoe has developed a range of catalysts specifically designed to produce renewable and low-carbon fuels, including for instance renewable diesel, SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel), eMethanol, low-carbon hydrogen and green ammonia. These catalysts enable more efficient and faster production processes, helping to lower the emissions of the energy industry.

Pioneers in catalyst development

Topsoe’s work in developing the catalysts that will help facilitate global decarbonization is built on a rich history in catalyst development, dating back to its founding in 1940 by Dr. Haldor Topsoe. Dr. Topsoe was a visionary pioneer in the field of heterogeneous catalysis, recognizing the potential of catalysts to revolutionize industrial processes. Since its inception, Topsoe has been at the forefront of catalyst innovation, developing groundbreaking technologies for the production of ammonia, methanol, and other chemicals. In 1944, Topsoe delivered its first product to customers, making it possible to use catalysis to speed up the production of sulfuric acid.

Over the years, Topsoe has continued to innovate in the field of heterogeneous catalysis, developing new catalyst formulations and production processes that have improved the efficiency and sustainability of a wide range of industrial processes. Today, Topsoe offers over 150 in-house catalyst types, making it a leading producer of catalysts for the chemical, refining, and energy industries. Topsoe continues to invest in research and development, pushing the boundaries of catalyst technology to meet the evolving needs of global industries.

A catalyst for change

Topsoe's vision is to be recognized as the global leader in carbon emission reduction technologies. To realize this ambition, the company is committed to supporting its customers' decarbonization journey by continuing the development of catalyst solutions that optimize plant performance and lower CO2 emissions. In 2022, for instance, 8.6% of revenue was invested back into R&D efforts. By leveraging over 80 years of catalyst experience, optimization and knowhow, Topsoe’s continued innovation continues to enable industries to reduce their carbon footprint and embrace more future-proof industrial practices.


Fall down the rabbit hole into the fascinating world of catalysts! Listen to our Fuel for Thought S5E4 podcast: Your one-stop guide to catalysts crucial role in renewables

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