293711 Renewable Feedstock for Steam Crackers: Catalytic Upgrading of Crude Tall Oil (CTO) Into Bio-Naphtha

Wednesday, May 1, 2013: 4:30 PM
Crockett A/B (Grand Hyatt San Antonio)
Jinto Anthonykutty, Juha Linnekoski, Antero Laitinen and Ali Harlin, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Espoo, Finland

Renewable feedstocks from bio resources are better alternatives to petroleum derived naphtha for the production of olefins and aromatics by steam cracking or reforming.1, 2 Mostly, these renewable feedstocks (bio-naphtha) rich in n-alkanes are produced by catalytic upgrading methods via hydrotreating/hydroprocessing; in which oxygenates are removed from bio-oil by various deoxygenation processes. At present, hydrotreated vegetable (HVO) oil is produced in many countries on industrial scale using existing petroleum refinery methods3. However, employing higher priced vegetable oils could be a major concern in these processes and the main challenge is therefore finding an inexpensive and non-food chain affecting feedstock. Tall oil, obtained as a by-product from Kraft pulping process, is abundant and cheap;and hence, meets the criteria of a low cost starting material for upgrading4. Moreover, the utilization of tall oil in conventional oil refineries could serve as an eco-friendly method to convert bio-wastes into bio-naphtha1.

In the present research approach, catalytic upgrading (hydrotreating) of crude tall oil (CTO) into bio-naphtha suitable for a steam cracker is discussed. CTO, which contains mainly fatty acids (42.9 wt. %) and resin acids (25.7 wt. %) was obtained from Stora-Enso Kaukopää (Finland) mill and used as received. A commercial NiMo catalyst was employed and the experiments were conducted in a continuous, down flow, fixed bed reactor at different process conditions (WHSV 1-3h-1, Pressure 5 MPa and Temperature 350 - 450 oC). After the stabilization period (6 h.), the liquid sample was collected and separated into organic and aqueous phases.The product distribution in organic phase was analyzed with a Shimadzu GC/MS equipped with a Zebron MS 30m × 0.25 mm × 0.25µm column.

This current approach reports that CTO produces mainly paraffins, cycloalkanes and aromatics during upgrading process. Paraffinic hydrocarbons mainly comprise n-octadecane (20-25 wt. %) and n-heptadecane (15-20 wt. %), are obtained in maximum yield (55- 60 wt. %) in low temperature reactions. The yield of paraffinic hydrocarbons increased as a function of increasing space time in low temperature reactions. 18-Norabietane and other mono-, di- and tri- cycloalkanes are obtained from resin acids in CTO, and these cyclic structures are converted to aromatics such as naphthalene and phenanthrene in high temperature reactions (>400 oC). Stigmastane, apparently produced from sterols in CTO are also present as a major three ring component in the product stream. Additionally, gaseous products obtained and the yield increased as a function of temperature. The trend observed with the distribution of gaseous products reveal that decarboxylation and cracking reactions are favored at higher temperatures, while hydrogenation and hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) are suppressed.

 The elemental composition of CTO shows that it contains relatively high sulfur content (1800 mg/kg), could be useful to keep the catalyst’s activity with time on stream (TOS). However, the considerable amount (87 mg/kg) of alkali metals (Na, K, Ca and P) in CTO might be critical for the catalyst activity with TOS, will be discussed in this contribution.

The product composition obtained with CTO is assessed in comparison with  compositions and characteristics of refinery naphtha feeds, and will be discussed in detail. Furthermore, this contribution will discuss the achieved deoxygenation rate and success criteria for the product composition of upgraded CTO.



  1. Gornay, J.; Coniglio, L.; Billaud, F.; Wild, G.  Steam Cracking and Steam Reforming of Waste Cooking Oil in a Tubular Stainless Steel Reactor with Wall Effects. energy&fuels, 2009, 23(11), 5663-5676.
  2. Pyl, S.P.; Schietekat, C.M.; Reyniers, M.F.; Abhari, R.; Marin, G.B.; Van Geem, K.M. Biomass to olefins: Cracking of renewable naphtha. Chemical Engineering Journal, 2011, 176-177, 178-187.
  3. Sunde, K.; Brekke, A.; Solberg, B.  Environmental Impacts and Costs of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oils, Transesterified Lipids and Woody BTL- A Review. Energies, 2011, 4(6), 845-877.
  4. Coll, R.; Udas, S.; Jacoby, W.A. Conversion of the Rosin Acid Fraction of Crude Tall Oil into Fuels and Chemicals. energy&fuels, 2001, 15, 1166-1172.

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