Fischer–Tropsch Synthesis: Computational Sensitivity Modeling for Series of Cobalt Catalysts
Gnanamani, Muthu K.
Shafer, Wilson D.
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Nearly a century ago, Fischer and Tropsch discovered a means of synthesizing organic compounds ranging from C<sub>1</sub> to C<sub>70</sub> by reacting carbon monoxide and hydrogen on a catalyst. Fischer–Tropsch synthesis (FTS) is now known as a pseudo-polymerization process taking a mixture of CO as H<sub>2</sub> (also known as syngas) to produce a vast array of hydrocarbons, along with various small amounts of oxygenated materials. Despite the decades spent studying this process, it is still considered a black-box reaction with a mechanism that is still under debate. This investigation sought to improve our understanding by taking data from a series of experimental Fischer–Tropsch synthesis runs to build a computational model. The experimental runs were completed in an isothermal continuous stirred-tank reactor, allowing for comparison across a series of completed catalyst tests. Similar catalytic recipes were chosen so that conditional comparisons of pressure, temperature, SV, and CO/H<sub>2</sub> could be made. Further, results from the output of the reactor that included the deviations in product selectivity, especially that of methane and CO<sub>2</sub>, were considered. Cobalt was chosen for these exams for its industrial relevance and respectfully clean process as it does not intrinsically undergo the water–gas shift (WGS). The primary focus of this manuscript was to compare runs using cobalt-based catalysts that varied in two oxide catalyst supports. The results were obtained by creating two differential equations, one for H<sub>2</sub> and one for CO, in terms of products or groups of products. These were analyzed using sensitivity analysis (SA) to determine the products or groups that impact the model the most. The results revealed a significant difference in sensitivity between the two catalyst–support combinations. When the model equations for H<sub>2</sub> and CO were split, the results indicated that the CO equation was significantly more sensitive to CO<sub>2</sub> production than the H<sub>2</sub> equation.