Selective Fischer-Tropsch Catalyst for Producing C9-C16 Hydrocarbons
Navy STTR FY2007

Sol No.: Navy STTR FY2007
Topic No.: N07-T027
Topic Title: Selective Fischer-Tropsch Catalyst for Producing C9-C16 Hydrocarbons
Proposal No.: N074-027-0323
Firm: Eltron Research & Development, Inc.
4600 Nautilus Court South
Boulder, Colorado 80301-3241
Contact: Dan Fraenkel
Phone: (303) 530-0263
Web Site:
Abstract: A conceptual Fischer-Tropsch (FT) based process is proposed for converting synthesis gas to C9 C16 hydrocarbons suitable for Navy use as synthetic JP5 fuel. We shall develop an advanced FT catalyst selective for C5-C8 olefins that will be subsequently dimerized to C10-C16; optionally, the process will include product upgrading, e.g., partial reduction. Phase I will investigate in parallel two crucial issues: (1) Development of a suitable FT catalyst based on zeolite supported ruthenium (at Eltron), and (2) Design of a novel FT multi-channel reactor (MCR) with ultra-efficient heat removal capability for near-isothermal operation at relatively low temperature and high pressure (at Florida Institute of Technology). The developed catalyst will first be tested for its potential in the proposed performance using a packed-bed mini-reactor with highly efficient heat removal; initial MCR testing will follow. Phase II will investigate full operation of the MCR, the dimerization reaction, and product separation, recycle and upgrading; more catalyst development will include aging and regeneration studies in addition to optimization, full characterization, and scale-up. Successful Phase I and II will lead to Phase III -- building and operating a fully-integrated prototype JP5 FT mini-plant based on syngas from natural gas reforming.
Benefits: There is currently an urgent need in the U.S. military as well as in the commercial sector for specific synthetic fuels derived from alternative and diverse resources; there is also a special desire to make those fuels in small scale on board mobile transportation systems and in remote locations where conventional primary raw materials such as natural gas (NG) and crude oil may not be readily available or usable. There is also need for more flexibility in our energy economy, moving it away from heavy dependence on foreign sources that threatens our national security, and using environmentally more benign energy sources such as biomass instead of the GHG (greenhouse gas) generating conventional carbonaceous resources. A spectrum of hydrocarbon fuels close in nature to conventional petroleum crudes is obtainable through Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS); the latter can start from any source of synthesis gas (H2-CO) and is termed based on this source, e.g., GTL (when starting from NG), CTL (coal) and BTL (biomass), each source being converted "To Liquid". One serious drawback of FTS is its inherent lack of product selectivity. This is especially a problem if one desires to maximize a hydrocarbon middle cut such as C9-C16 light diesel. Low chain-growth probability will shift the product to the undesired hydrocarbon gases (C4-) whereas high chain-growth probability will enhance production of heavy diesel and wax. The proposed research addresses this problem in a novel way, by developing a FT process with very low selectivity to gas but also a cutoff in product growth to completely avoid wax formation and the associated tremendous operation difficulties especially in small scale and using a compact and mobile plant. The Navy will be able to install many `mini-plants' based on the proposed research once it comes to fruition. Thus, we anticipate that a JP5 mini-plant capable of producing 10 bbd (barrels per day) may cost $2-3MM to build and it will be able to use NG, coal, biomass, or any other carbonaceous source as feed. This plant is expected to be portable (by air or surface) and modular and, due to its unique design, allow an easy scale-up or scale-down; as example, it could be built to supply 1,000 bbd at an estimated cost of roughly $100MM, although this may be more suitable for stationary installation. The commercial sector could likewise benefit from this technology, for example, in utilizing biomass at relatively small supply in remote locations where light diesel fuels, such as jet fuel, are desired.