Prospect of success in scaling-up Fischer-Tropsch synthesis reactor operates in near-critical and supercritical phase media
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Conducting Fischer Tropsch synthesis (FTS) reactions in supercritical fluid (SCF) media has been demonstrated to have certain advantages over the traditional routes because of the unique characteristics of the supercritical phase (combination of liquid-like heat capacity and solubility for optimum temperature distribution and in situ extraction of heavy hydrocarbons from the catalyst pores and gas-like diffusivity for higher conversion). The pioneer study in this field was conducted by Karu Fujimoto and his team at the University of Tokyo (published in a short communication in Fuel volume 68, 1989). Series of studies then followed led by Bala Subramanian team at the University of Kansas, Drago Bukur team at Texas A&M, Burt Davis at the University of Kentucky, and Christopher Roberts team at Auburn University. The aforementioned studies concluded several advantages of operating FTS in SCF media versus operation in conventional media due to the followings: (1) in-situ extraction of heavy hydrocarbons from the catalyst pores resulting from high solubility in the supercritical phase, (2) elimination of interphase transport limitations thus promoting reaction pathways toward the desired products, (3) enhancement of á-olefins desorption that promote the chain growth process prior to secondary reactions, and (4) excellent heat transfer compared to gas-phase reaction that results in more long chain products. This paper covers a brief review on major studies conducted in the field of SCF-FTS. It also looks at the prospectus in designing a high-pressure fixedbed reactor setup to facilitate FTS operation under near-critical and supercritical solvent condition. The design of the reactor considers utilizing the high pressure operation under SCF-FTS in separation of hydrocarbon products from supercritical solvent as well as in hydrocarbon fractionation.
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