Catalytic oxidation is a form of thermal oxidation that uses a catalyst to lower the total energy required to achieve the conversion from hydrocarbon to carbon dioxide and water vapor. Typical destruction efficiencies range from 95-99%. In this form of technology, the catalyst induces oxidation at temperatures ranging from 550 to 700 °F, depending on the chemical make-up of the air stream. Recently introduced catalysts, designed for specific solvent chemistry and concentrations, are being tested at inlet temperatures as low as 450 °F.
Catalysts have a normal life expectance of five to fifteen years depending on operating temperature, catalyst design, and the potential presence of contaminants in the process air stream.. With respect to temperature, too little heat at the inlet to the catalyst can result in a build up of VOCs on the surface of the catalyst, which in turn, can result in damage to both the catalyst and oxidizer when these solvents finally ignite within the bed. Likewise, catalysts have a high temperature operating limit of about 1,200 °F. In any case, a properly designed system will include safeties to protect against either temperature extreme.