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Improving FCC catalyst effectiveness

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

A collaboration between catalyst researchers from Albemarle Corporation, Utrecht University and Stanford University has led to an innovative new method for observing fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) catalyst behaviour at the nanoscale. Using X-ray nano tomography as a powerful chemical imaging method, Albemarle and its partners have discovered that the impurities in the feedstock can create a largely impenetrable crust on the surface of an FCC catalyst particle, preventing the feedstock from reaching the still active core. This breakthrough observation indicates that inner components of FCC catalysts are not being fully utilised, creating opportunities for catalyst optimisation.

"This deeper understanding of the catalyst deactivation process is paramount as we become more dependent on heavier, more contaminated feeds," said Edwin Berends, Vice President of Albemarle's Refining Solutions Research and Technology Group. "This new observation technique shows that catalyst accessibility is the key in maximising the utilisation of catalyst particles and gives us insights on how to engineer even better, more sustainable solutions."

"Understanding the deactivation process of this catalyst material is important because we will become increasingly dependent on cheap, but dirty petroleum for making gasoline in the coming decades," said Bert Weckhuysen, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis at Utrecht University and an author of the research. "Now that we know this, we can work on solutions to make the conversion process more sustainable."

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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