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A new process to make olefins from syngas

By Paul Grad |

Light olefins, such as ethylene and propylene, are primarily made by the catalytic cracking of crude oil. Alternatively, two other methods were developed during the time of high oil prices, both of which convert synthesis gas (syngas) to olefins: the methanol-to-olefins (MTO) process, which uses zeolite catalysts; and the (Fischer-Tropsch-to-olefins) (FTO) process, which uses metal catalysts. Although much progress has been made in direct syngas conversion to light olefins via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, the wide product distribution remains a challenge, with a theoretical limit of only 58% for C2–C4 hydrocarbons. Now, professors Xiulian Pan and Xinhe Bao of the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Dalian, China; www.dicp.ac.cn) have developed a third alternative, called the OX-ZEO (oxide-zeolite) technique. With this method, they report a C2=–C4= selectivity of 80% and C2–C4 94% at carbon monoxide conversion of 17%. The catalyst system consists of the partially reduced metal-oxide surface catalyst ZnCrOx, which activates CO and H2, and C-C coupling and is subsequently manipulated within the confined acidic pores of zeolites. A zeolite called MSAPO is used to convert syngas to ketene (CH2CO),…
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