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New catalysts enable CO2-neutral olefins production via methane reforming

By Gerald Ondrey |

Today, olefins are mainly made either by naphtha cracking or by the catalytic conversion of dimethyl ether (DME), which is in-situ made from synthesis-gas- (syngas) derived methanol (methanol-to-olefin processes). Both naphtha cracking and syngas production (from steam-methane reforming; SMR) require fossil fuels to drive the endothermic reactions, resulting in considerable emissions of CO2. In an effort to reduce CO2 emissions from olefins production, BASF SE (Ludwigshafen, Germany; www.basf.com), together with industrial and academic partners, is developing an alternative route to DME that reduces the CO2 footprint by 50–70%, according to Nils Bottke, head of petrochemical catalyst research at BASF, who presented an update of this five-year research project during a BASF Research Press Conference last month in Ludwigshafen. The new route to DME is a two-step process. In the first step, syngas is made by “dry reforming” of methane — that means CO2 is used as a reagent instead of water, as in conventional SMR. As a result, this step is CO2 neutral to slightly negative, explains Bottke. In contrast, SMR releases about 350 kg of CO2 per 1,000 Nm3 of syngas. To perform dry reforming, BASF developed two spinel-type catalysts…
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