Hot Article: Cleaning up crude oil

A new system, using a solid state catalyst, to remove impurities from petroleum has been developed by US scientists.

With current oil consumption levels high, light crude oil reserves will be exhausted, giving way to heavy and extra heavy bitumen refinery feeds. These contain a higher proportion of large polycyclic hydrocarbons, together with N- and S-heteroaromatics, which need to be removed or transformed, without catalyst poisoning. Current methods to do this require high temperatures and pressures.

The catalyst made by the researchers, composed of ruthenium nanoparticles immobilised on a polymer, hydrogenates aromatic compounds under moderate conditions with no poisoning.

Hydrogenation of arenes and N-heteroaromatic compounds over ruthenium nanoparticles on poly(4-vinylpyridine): a versatile catalyst operating by a substrate-dependent dual site mechanism
Minfeng Fang, Nataliya Machalaba and Roberto A. Sánchez-Delgado
Dalton Trans., 2011, DOI: 10.1039/C1DT10801H

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One Response to “Hot Article: Cleaning up crude oil”

  1. R A Sanchez-Delgado says:

    What we find most interesting about this catalyst is that it seems to operate through two distinct mechanisms, most likely at two different active sites, depending on the substrate. N-heterocycles are hydrogenated via an outer-sphere mechanism involving heterolytic hydrogen splitting assisted by the polymer support and possibly the substrate itself. Although heterolytic pathways are common in solution, they are extremely rare on surfaces, but can be achieved as in this case by an appropriate design of a nanostructure that combines the metallic particles with the basic sites on the polymer.
    Less polar simple aromatics, on the other hand, are reduced by a conventional homolytic pathway on the metallic sites.

    (Report comment)

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