Robust catalysts to convert crude oil to chemicals: A Group of KFUPM Engineers and Scientists Developed Robust Catalysts to Monetize Crude Oil Resources by Production of Valuable Chemicals.

Nov. 25, 2018  |   Research

Many countries have targeted to shift their transportation mode to electric vehicle in order to meet Paris Agreement, to maintain the rise of global temperature lower than 2 oC. Consequently, the demand of crude oil for transportation will be reduced. Chemicals, according to IEA (the International Energy Agency), will consume more than a third of the growth in world oil demand in the coming 10 years. Saudi Arabia, as the largest producer of crude oil is starting to develop larger downstream industry to convert crude oil to (petro) chemicals.

There seven feedstocks to petrochemicals industry namely ethylene, propylene, benzene, toluene, xylene and syngas. The crude oil musty be converted to these feedstocks, to allow growth in petrochemical sector. The research, funded by Saudi Aramco, was aimed to find better and more robust catalysts to convert crude oil to olefins and aromatics. 

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Research Project at KFUPM: Development of Catalysts to Produce Valuable Chemicals.

Great Team Comes with a Great idea

In the past, water is considered as a poison in catalysis course. However, the conversion to crude oil to chemicals required the presence of steam, hot water, sub critical and even supercritical water in the conversion process. The percentage of steam is recommended especially in the processing of heavy oil. Then, the process become harsher and more extreme for catalysts. The catalysts can be collapsed in this harsh condition. It was investigated within this project, different ways to make the catalysts more stable, by applying hydrophobic surface to the zeolite catalysts.

In addition to hydrophobic zeolite catalysts, nanosized zeolite catalysts were also produced in this project. Different morphologies of zeolites with different topologies were invented and optimized.

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Catalyst Characterization in the XRD lab.

How does it work?

The robustness of the zeolite catalysts was controlled by different ways, including surface modification, composition control, and post-treatment step. Nanosized zeolites, which is crucial for both stability and selectivity were synthesized by using different methods, including the microwave assisted synthesis to achieve fast crystallization in which nanosized crystals can be maintained when the crystal growth can be controlled. The stability of catalysts was also influenced by the size of zeolite channels. Medium pore zeolites, which are table in hot water were tabulated and recommend in this project for future commercialization.  Catalytic cracking as the central of crude-oil to chemicals is a very strategic topic for the Kingdom to monetize crude oil resources.

Worldwide appreciation:

According to Clarivate Analytics, the team, which is led by Dr. Oki Muraza, is the most productive team worldwide for Catalytic Cracking in the past there years. The phase 1 project funded by Saudi Aramco has been completed with remarkable results including 26 ISI papers in reputable journals such as Applied Catalysis B and Applied Energy (topnotch journals with impact factor above 5). More than 8 patents have been drafted and submitted. The first phase project (6.5 million SAR) has been completed and the Phase II project (with a budget of 5.7 million SAR) has been secured and started. The problem tackled in this project, the conversion to crude oil to chemicals will open future industrial applications in downstream industry in the Kingdom.

These know-hows will allow the Kingdom to have its first zeolite catalyst manufacturing company. The team is also invited by DTVC to plan scale up research for potential commercialization.

It is worth mentioning that there have been (26) ISI papers published in reputable Journals out of this project. Furthermore, six patents, related to this area, have been drafted .

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Assoc. Prof. Dr. Oki Muraza (CENT and CHE Dept) – Project Manager/Principal Investigator.

Project Team:

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Oki Muraza (CENT and CHE Dept) – Project Manager/Principal Investigator, Prof. Dr. Z.H Yamani (CENT and Physics Dept), Mr. Idris Bakare (CENT), Mr. Mohammed Sanhoob (CENT), Mr. Mohamed Hassan (CENT), Mr. Anas Karrar Jamil (CENT), Mr. Galal Nasser (CENT).

The detailed description of such system could be found in the publications of principal investigator (Dr. Oki Muraza ) home page:  ( )