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Chementator: Ceramic ethane-to-ethylene membrane could replace pyrolysis  

By Gerald Ondrey |

Ateam of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (ANL, Argonne, Ill.; edlinks.chemengonline.com/7370-568) has developed a membrane capable of producing olefins from alkanes, and reducing wasted energy and pollutants while improving selectivity and yield. Steam cracking, or pyrolysis, has long been the widespread production method for olefins including ethylene, propylene, and 1,3-butadiene. However, this process of thermally cracking complex hydrocarbons has traditionally suffered from low conversion yield and selectivity. In addition to necessitating mechanisms for the separation of low-value byproducts (hydrogen, methane and acetylene, for example) and a recycle for the ethane not pyrolyzed, this low yield and selectivity has required high throughput to remain competitive (approximately 1 billion lb/yr in ethylene product). Thermal cracking is also energy intensive, employing a highly endothermic reaction during cracking between 800 – 1,200°F, as well as refrigerated condensation steps for separating some byproducts. According to senior ceramist Balu Balachandran, the ANL team has been "developing three types of hydrogen transport membranes." The alkanes dehydrogenate into…
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