INTRODUCTION TO THE BIZEOLCAT PROJECT

The growth in world energy demand from fossil fuels has played a key role in the fast increase in CO2 emissions. Since the Industrial Revolution, annual CO2 emissions from fuel combustion have dramatically increased from near zero to over 33 GtCO2 in 2015. Technical improvements in catalysis are crucial to reduce this environmental burden in alignment towards the climate actions targets agreed in COP21.

BIZEOLCAT addresses the need for lowering the carbon footprint of refining industry, contributing to an evolving scenario of sustainable economy in such field.

BIZEOLCAT’s main objective is to obtain light olefins and aromatics using light hydrocarbons (C1, C3 and C4) by implementing new procedures, involving innovative catalysts synthesis methodologies and novel reactor design and processing, demonstrating their improvement in sustainability and economic scalability in existing industrial processes.

Upbringing the use of light alkanes as raw material for specialty chemical industry and not as feedstock for fuels in the current oil refining process, BIZEOLCAT contributes to this transition. Methane (C1) from stranded gas natural resources, propane (C3) and butane (C4) from oil cracking can be efficiently converted into light olefins (propylene, butadiene) and aromatics (benzene, toluene) and further used for commodity or fine chemicals as polypropylene, polybutadiene, acrylonitrile, acrolein and propylene oxide. Catalysis is a key enabling technology to carry out this new sustainable chemical framework where natural resources of methane are not diverted to gas flaring or where newly generated outputs from cracking, as C3 (propane/propene mixtures) or C4 (butane/butenes mixtures) become a raw material and not fuel.

Existing industrial approaches in the field of catalytic conversion of alkanes into high value chemicals have been developed worldwide with catalysts that lack site homogeneity with only a small fraction of active species. Such processes showed a conversion rate lower than 70%, a selectivity below 70%, high financial costs and a poor environmental profile for such catalysts: high regeneration costs (6000 MJ/year for air heating to coke combustion), replacement due to deactivation each two years as average, and temperature processes over 500°C. In this context, BIZEOLCAT aims to overcome such barriers by developing and upscaling four competitive processes combining single site catalysts and/or bimetallic nanoparticles on oxide or mesoporous zeolites in a catalyst-by-design approach adding innovation in reactor membranes.

The novelty relies on a unique preparation methodology providing 100% active sites and maximum dispersion of the active phase on the support. The process engineering will be reviewed, involving membrane reactor to extract pure hydrogen, drive the reaction forward and lower the working temperature. Consequently, with these novelties, the proposed processes will be more energy and cost efficient.

The goal of the project will be reached with the following work program, divided into 7 Work Packages (WP) WP1 – Techno-economic feasibility and monitoring WP2 – Catalyst synthesis, characterisation and reactions mechanisms WP3 – Catalytic testing and optimization WP4 – Chemical reactor engineering, modelling, scale-up and demonstration WP5 – Sustainability, safety and social assessment WP6 –  Impact boosting activities WP7 – Project Management, coordination and Risk Mitigation