What are Catalytic Heaters?

How Catalytic Heaters Work

Catalytic heaters have been used in industrial applications since they were first introduced several decades ago. They get their name from the catalyzed chemical reactions that occur while breaking down molecules to produce heat. Catalytic heaters generate heat without a flame, which makes them ideal for use in many hazardous environments.

The heat-producing chemical reaction requires fuel, such as natural gas or propane; an electrically preheated catalyst, such as a platinum-coated pad or plate; and oxygen from ambient air. When these three elements come together at the face of the heater, they produce completely flameless heat from start up to shut down.

The radiant, infrared heat generated by a catalytic heater offers many advantages over other types of heating. While other forms of heat often waste energy by heating the surrounding air and other objects in the vicinity, catalytic heaters heat only the objects they are directed at. This provides greater efficiency, allowing smaller heaters to be used and lowering initial cost and fuel consumption.

Catalytic Heating

Catalytic Heating in the Natural Gas Industry

Catalytic heaters are used in natural gas production and distribution to prevent freezing and hydrate formation in pipeline regulation and measurement instruments - common problems experienced when gas pressures fluctuate. In these applications, catalytic heaters are used to apply radiant heat directly at the problem area. Catco produces a wide variety of enclosures that mount heaters securely onto any valve or regulator.

Since they never produce a flame and can be started with little electricity — even by using a truck battery — catalytic heaters are suitable for use in all phases of the natural gas extraction and delivery process, or in any environment where the atmosphere has natural gas or other explosion hazards.


Types of Catalytic Heaters

Catco catalytic heaters are primarily used for three functions: heated enclosures for valves and regulators, instrument gas and pilot preheating and space heating.

Catalytic Heating
Heated Enclosure Packages

When the pressure of a gas in a pipe is reduced, the temperature of the gas also decreases. If the decrease is significant enough, the regulator can freeze, causing a buildup of ice on the outside of the pump or inside the regulator. While the issue is more common in areas with low ambient temperatures, it can also be an issue in warm climates. Using a stainless-steel enclosure, Catco mounts the catalytic heater directly onto the valve, which also serves to protect the heater from rain and snow.

View all Enclosure Packages

Instrument Gas
Instrument Gas and Pilot Preheating

With pilot-operated regulators, freeze protection is only required for the pilot, making heated enclosure packages unnecessary. Catco offers a simple heat exchanger that preheats the gas before it reaches the pilot. This application can also be used to heat a stream of gas that needs to be above a certain temperature for measurement or instrumentation.

View all Instrument Gas Heating Assemblies

Catalytic Heating
Space Heating

There are many situations in the natural gas industry that require heat but are not suitable for traditional forms of heating due to a lack of electricity or safety concerns about explosive gases in the environment. Catalytic space heaters, which can be mounted on the wall or floor for directed heat, can be used to maintain a comfortable environment for personnel, or prevent equipment from reaching critical temperatures. Geographic areas with low winter ambient temperatures often use space heaters in buildings that house compression, measurement, or other equipment.

View all Space Heaters


Frequently Asked Questions

How do Catco Heaters work? 

Catco heaters use a chemical reaction to generate heat without a flame. This chemical reaction requires three things: Fuel gas (natural gas or propane), Preheated Catco catalyst (catalyst preheated to approximately 250°F with an electric heating element) and oxygen (from ambient air). Our heaters are designed so that these three elements come together at the face of the heater to produce heat.


What makes Catco heaters safe? 

First and foremost, Catco heaters are completely flameless from start up to shut down. Additionally, when in operation, Catco heaters have been found to be non-incendiary when directly exposed to flammable or incendiary gasses.

While running at 100% output, Catco heaters have been directly exposed to several flammable substances including Methane (ignition point 1076°F), Propane (ignition point 878°F) Heptane (ignition point 419°F) and Gasoline (ignition point 536°F). In each case, no ignition of the fuel or fuel vapors occurred. Catco heaters are available with certifications for hazardous locations. Asbestos has never been used in any Catco product.


What is the life expectancy of the heater?

The life of a catalytic heater is very dependent on gas quality and environment. The catalyst is not consumed during the chemical reaction, so in an ideal world, they would last forever. In real life applications however, we have seen them last anywhere from two to 15 years.


What steps do I need to take to maintain my Catco heater?

Catco heaters contain no moving parts and maintenance is minimal. The face of the heater should be protected from water and other contaminants. If an area is being cleaned with high pressure water spray or air pressure, care must be taken to protect any heaters in the area, as the catalyst may be damaged or destroyed. When the heater is not in use, it should be stored in a clean, dry area. Heaters should be wrapped in plastic or other protective material when not in service to protect them from excessive contaminants and rodent or insect damage.