Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis over Cobalt-based Catalysts for BTL applications
Abstract: Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is a commercial technology that allows converting synthesis gas, a mixture of CO and H2, into fuels and chemicals. This process could be one of the actors in the reduction of oil dependency of the transportation sector. In fact, it has great potential for producing synthetic fuels also from renewable sources, such as biomass, after its thermochemical conversion (gasification) into synthesis gas. Concerning the quality of a diesel fuel produced with this technology, it has a lower local environmental impact than conventional diesel, since it is practically free of sulphur and nitrogen compounds and yields lower exhaust emissions of hydrocarbons, CO and particulates. The present study focuses on the use of cobalt-based catalysts for the production of diesel. In particular, it looks upon correlation between product selectivities when varying the catalyst properties and the effect of process parameters, such as a low H2/CO ratio, typical of a biomass-derived synthesis gas, and the water partial pressure.Different cobalt-based catalysts, with different properties, such as conventional 3-dimensional porous network supports (γ-Al2O3, α-Al2O3, TiO2, SiO2), Co-loading, preparation technique, etc., were investigated in the Fischer–Tropsch reaction at industrially relevant process conditions. For a set of process conditions, a linear relationship seems to exist between the selectivity to methane (and other light products) and higher hydrocarbons (identified by the industrially relevant parameter SC5+, selectivity to hydrocarbons with more than 4 carbon atoms) indicating a common precursor.Ordered mesoporous materials (SBA-15), characterized by a 1-dimensional mesoporous network, were tested as model supports and showed the possibility of occurrence of CO-diffusion limitations at diffusion distances much shorter than those required for conventional 3-dimensional porous network supports. The linear relationship mentioned above, derived for conventional supports, was shown to be an efficient tool for indicating whether measured selectivities are affected by CO-diffusion limitations. Some of the catalysts were exposed to H2-poor syngas and to external water addition and the effects on the selectivity relationships were investigated.Furthermore, the possibility of internal water-gas shift of a H2-poor syngas with mixtures of Co/γ-Al2O3 and a Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 catalyst was investigated both as a technical solution for direct use of a model bio-syngas in the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, and as a means to study the effect of indigenous water removal on the reaction rate to hydrocarbons. It was found that removal of indigenously produced water slows down the reaction rate significantly. Lastly, the effect of water partial pressure on the Fischer–Tropsch rate of the Co catalyst supported on narrow-pore γ-Al2O3, on its own, was studied. Inlet water partial pressure was varied by external water vapor addition at different H2/CO molar ratios ranging from 1 to 3. The effect of water showed to be positive on the rate for all the H2/CO ratios, but more significantly at H2-poor conditions. The nature of this positive effect on the rate seems to be unrelated to changes in amounts of amorphous polymeric carbon detectable by temperature-programmed hydrogenation of the spent catalyst.
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