Catalysis 2024 Issue

Catalyst technology for maximum light olefins and ultra-low emissions

Bio-derived naphtha-to-olefins technology for today’s refinery and the future’s anticipated renewable fuels and chemicals refinery

Ray Fletcher Gasolfin

A catalytically driven naphtha-to-olefins technology, the Gasolfin process converts conventional and bio-derived naphthas into light olefins (ethylene, pro - pylene, and butylene), reaching olefin yields up to 88 wt% . The process developed by Inovacat reduces CO₂ emissions by 50% or more compared to the catalytic cracking (FCC) and propane dehydrogenation (PDH) processes. Gasolfin’s catalyst converts naphtha boiling-range hydrocarbons, excluding aromatics, from butane through undecane (C₄- C11). The catalyst also converts pentane, recognised as the lowest valued and most refractive of gasoline components. Inovacat’s technology is based upon a catalyst system protected by multiple patents. This technology has been in development since 2017 and has successfully passed both bench- and pilot plant-scale testing. The company is currently in collaboration with an Asian refiner to build and operate an 800-litre/day demonstration plant. This plant is expected to go into construction in mid-2024 and will be in production in late 2025. Gasolfin anticipates having the technology ready for deployment in 2027 with the follow - ing enhanced capabilities: • The first ever catalytic light ends conversion process capa - ble of converting low molecular weight paraffins, such as pentane, into high-valued ethylene, propylene, and butylene with product yields up to 27%, 46%, and 30%, respectively. • Converting fossil- and bio-derived naphthas into light ole - fins and light bio-olefins, respectively.

• Light olefins production with 50-66% lower CO₂ emissions. More specifically, Gasolfin produces polymer-grade pro - pylene and ethylene at a very low 0.45 tons CO₂/ton ole - fin ratio. In comparison, an FCC unit produces propylene at 0.783-0.869 tons CO₂/ton olefins, while a steam cracker produces ethylene at 1.231 tons CO₂/ton olefins. The tech - nology improves the flexibility of the fuels-based refinery and steam cracker-based chemical plant. The technology also converts any naphtha regardless of the source (crude unit, hydrotreater, or coker), as well as petrochemical plant intermediate and byproduct streams. It will also enable the facility to run harder. Ultra-low CO₂ emissions The Gasolfin process produces light olefins with significantly lower CO₂ emissions than the three leading propylene-pro - ducing technologies: FCC, steam cracking, and propane dehydrogenation (PDH). A benchmark paper for establishing GHG emissions for existing technologies was produced in 2013 titled, ‘Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes’. 1,2 Gasolfin produces 0.45 tons of CO₂ for every ton of total olefin produced, which is annotated as ‘tCO₂/tHVC’, where ‘tHVC’ abbreviates ‘ton Highly Valued Chemical’. This is an excellent metric, which enables a side-by-side comparison of an FCC and a steam cracker. The GHG Reductions paper places the GHG emissions of an FCC between 0.783 and 0.869 tCO₂/tHVC. A steam cracker processes naphtha at 0.700 and ethane at 0.964 for an average GHG emissions level of 0.832 tCO₂/tHVC. A PDH unit produces 1.231 tCO₂/tHVC. Gasolfin’s GHG emissions are significantly lower than each of the existing technologies shown in Figure 1 due to the following primary factors: • Lower heat of reaction: Gasolfin’s feedstock boils in the naphtha range, which has a much lower heat of reaction than for ethane cracking or PDH. • Narrow feed slate: The Gasolfin unit cracks naphtha boil - ing molecules to extinction. Feed boiling over the naphtha range is excluded from the feed. • Low coke selective catalyst: Gasolfin’s patented catalyst features an extremely low coke selectivity. FCC and PDH have coke yields of 4-5 wt%, while the Gasolfin coke yield

0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.2 1.0 1.4



0.78 0.81


0.45 0.49

Figure 1 GHG comparison with existing technologies


Catalysis 2024

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