High-Octane Fuel Stocks via Reactive Distillation

Period of Performance: 01/01/2001 - 12/31/2001


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Exelus, Inc.
110 Dorsa Ave
Livingston, NJ 07039
Principal Investigator


60108 The United States is the largest producer of refined petroleum products in the world, with 25 percent of global production and 163 operating refineries. U.S. refineries are also the largest energy consumers in manufacturing and spend $4-$6 billion annually in pollution abatement costs. Ultimately, such cleaner-by-design process technologies that use ¿engineered catalysts¿ could cut down significantly on energy usage and bring about a paradigm shift in the petroleum refining industry. This project will develop a light naphtha isomerization technology using catalytic distillation, which will produce isomerate (iso-pentanes and iso-hexanes) having a higher octane rating than conventional fixed-bed technologies. In Phase I, the hydrodynamic feasibility of using a multifunctional catalyst substrate in a multi-phase, counter-current, reactor operation was established. Phase II will develop the multifunctional solid-acid that will be used in a catalytic distillation reactor to produce isomerate from normal paraffins. Multifunctional catalysts will be designed, synthesized, and tested in both fixed-bed and catalytic distillation reactors. Information from the performance tests will be used to optimize catalyst design, reactor configuration, and process parameters. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits as described by the awardee: Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) has been banned as a gasoline additive in California, and groundwater contamination associated with MTBE has forced refiners all over the world to find a viable alternative. An appropriate blend of C5-C6 isomerates with alkylates would match the volatility of gasoline and be a perfect replacement for MTBE. The new isomerization technology would thus provide U.S. refiners with a viable alternative to MTBE.