Structured Catalyst for Efficient Production of Renewable Jet Fuel
Extensive work on developing new, high yield biologic sources of triglycerides continues around the world in an effort to diversify the worlds energy sources. Triglycerides, such as vegetable and algal oils, naturally consist of long hydrocarbon chains, making them excellent starting points for fuels. However, the traditional approach of transesterifying these compounds to methyl or ethyl ethers are not suitable for certain types of fuel. Jet fuel, in particular, has physical requirements that cannot be met with esters. Recent attempts to produce true hydrocarbons from triglycerides has focused on hydro treating, an approach that suffers from low selectivity to the desired fuels. The high cost of triglycerides makes low-selectivity approaches unworkable. This SBIR project seeks to develop a novel structured catalyst to facilitate the conversion of triglyceride oils to jet fuel or diesel in a single step without the addition of external hydrogen. The catalysts system uses several functionalities to promote a series of low-temperature reactions (less than 250C) in a single reactor, culminating in the formation of a stable hydrocarbon product. Product purification is also avoided through unique chemistry and self-separation. During this project, the novel catalyst will be developed and demonstrated to promote each key step in the reaction. The extent to which these steps can be combined into a single reactor will be determined both through reaction kinetic modeling and then verified experimentally. Key areas of work include catalyst synthesis and formulation, reaction engineering, chemical process design, and economic evaluations of the resulting process. If successful, this project will offer a low-cost, highly scalable technology for converting triglyceride oils into hydrocarbon fuels in a single step. By combining multiple reactions and functions into a single reactor, capital costs are kept very low, allowing both small and large scale units to be operated close to the source of the feedstock. This technology would also cut the cost of production of fuels from such oils dramatically by eliminating other chemical inputs (co-reactants, homogeneous catalysts) and eliminating extra processing steps (purification, separation).
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