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A bi-functional catalyst enables one-step, ‘tunable’ F-T synthesis of liquid fuels

By Tetsuo Satoh |

An integrated catalytic process for the direct, Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) conversion of synthesis gas (syngas) into different types of liquid fuels, without subsequent hydro-refining post-treatments of F-T waxes, has been developed by the research group of professor Noritatsu Tsubaki at the University of Toyama (Japan; www.u-toyama.ac.jp), in collaboration with the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) and Chinese University. Selectivities for gasoline (74%), jet fuel (72%) and diesel fuel (58%) have been achieved using mesoporous Y-type zeolites with a precisely controlled steric nanostructure, mesoporous structure and acidity distribution, in combination with 10-nm-dia. cobalt nanoparticles and 0.4-nm-dia. lanthanum particles. The researchers were able to reduce the amount of the rare-earth metals to one third the amount needed by previous efforts.

The types of liquid fuels produced can be readily tuned by controlling the porosity and acid properties of the zeolites. Also, a new product-distribution model was constructed for the bifunctional catalysts, which do not obey the traditional Anderson–Schulz–Flory (ASF) distribution. In addition to providing a simple, direct method for synthesizing different types of liquid fuels, the researchers believe that the catalyst system may also be suitable for producing jet fuel from CO2 and H2, without the need for biomass feedstock.

The achievement is a follow-up of a five-year project to develop F-T jet fuel from biomass, which began in 2012, with collaboration from the Tsubaki group, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group and JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy Corp., and support from the New Energy and Industry Technology Development Organization (NEDO). A demonstration plant is planned to be built within the next three years.

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