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May-2024

Zeopore is making its mark in green applications through zeolite modification

Zeolite mesoporisation optimises sustainable fuels and chemicals manufacturing and enables chemical plastic waste recycling.

Kurt Du Mong
Zeopore

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Article Summary

Besides making oil refining and petrochemicals more performant and sustainable, Zeopore’s unique zeolite mesoporisation technology strongly contributes to the global energy transition and emerging circular economy. Kurt Du Mong, Zeopore CEO: “We have already achieved several proof points of our value in the chemical industry’s macro shift towards renewable sources, ecofriendly energy production, CO2 capture and (plastic) waste recycling. Because this shift entails fundamental process changes, we increase the applicability of our mesoporized zeolites in several green catalysis processes, such as green methanol to olefins, sustainable fuels, biomass conversion to olefins and aromatics, and advanced plastic waste recycling. Partners or consortia are welcome to jointly embed our catalysis innovations in broader technology developments for realising new green processes and supply chains.”

As a result of macroeconomic, environmental, and geopolitical evolutions, the oil demand is likely to peak in the next five to 10 years. By providing enhanced zeolite-based catalysts, Zeopore allows existing petrochemical industries to operate more targeted, efficient, and sustainable.

The world no longer exclusively relies on fossil fuels because of environmental considerations and the limited global crude oil supply. The future of the fossil fuel industry is likely to be shaped by a combination of factors driving further decarbonisation. These factors include energy transition, electrification, and climate policies.

As a catalysis innovator, we capture many opportunities in the macroshift from petrochemical to renewable sources, ecofriendly energy production, and (plastic) waste recycling. The gradual escape from fossil sources leads to the growing use of biomass and waste plastics sources. Our unique catalyst innovations enable Zeopore to positively contribute to this global trend in energy transition and circular economy.

Some new trends can be facilitated through existing technologies, whereas others require new technologies. Zeopore has already demonstrated its capability to enhance catalytic processes through incremental or radical improvements. Currently, we are also enhancing the applicability of our mesoporised zeolites in a number of green catalysis processes as part of customer assignments or internal initiatives. The following highlights our proof points in four key catalysis-based applications.

For each application, we apply a similar approach using our proprietary knowledge base:
- Lay bare the zeolite mesoporisation landscape to define the optimum catalyst properties for the target application.
- Stepwise scale up the production volume of the most suitable mesoporous zeolite.
- Co-develop the optimal supply chain through adequate partnerships.
- Help deploy the process/catalyst offering to the market.

Sustainable fuels and lubricants
The commercial relevance of hydroisomerisation processes is expected to increase significantly based on the ongoing shift from fossil to sustainable feedstocks. Increasingly strict legislation imposed on the transport sector gradually raises the use of sustainable fuels. The RED III targets in the EU, for example, imply 29% renewables in the final energy consumption in this sector by 2030. Over time, the sustainable ingredients will gradually become more prominent in biofuels made from food feed crops and agriculture forestry biomass, as well as fuels with a recycled carbon or non-biological origin.
The emerging renewable fuels and lubricants markets are growing extremely fast. In these markets, dewaxing is imperative since these renewable products typically have lower cold flow properties than fossil-based products. In cold climates, it can be a challenge to fuel vehicles with high blends of biodiesel because biodiesel tends to freeze at higher temperatures than conventional diesel. The cloud point of soybean biodiesel is about 1°C, whereas the cloud point for No. 1 diesel is about -40°C and for No. 2 diesel between -28°C and -7°C. Therefore, higher-performance dewaxing at an affordable cost is essential for the delivery of high-quality renewable fuels used in cold climates.

The benefits of zeolite mesoporisation typically increase as substrate molecule sizes increase and zeolite micropore sizes decrease. Accordingly, in biodiesel (and biolube) dewaxing, the benefits are even more pronounced: improved cold flow properties at an unprecedented low product loss. In high-throughput tests performed at hte, using industrial feeds and process conditions, Zeopore reached five times lower diesel yield loss at high cloud point or pour point improvements than an industrial reference zeolite (Figure 1). Furthermore, Zeopore’s catalytic dewaxing innovation reduces capacity-limiting gas formation, improves product slate composition, and maintains favourable zeolite activities and lifetimes. Refer to press release: ‘Catalytic dewaxing: Zeopore reaches 30°C cloud point improvement with diesel yield loss under 2 wt%’ (bit.ly/3wbtPGG)

Recently, Zeopore has been approached by leading biofuel manufacturing companies and related process developers. For these customers, we defined the optimum catalyst properties for specific sustainable diesel and jet fuel applications, tuned zeolite mesoporisation accordingly, and already scaled up to pilot volumes. Our product is being performance tested by the customer, and preliminary results are convincing.

Advanced chemical plastic waste recycling
Currently, Europe collects roughly 30 million tons of post-consumption plastics, with 65% going to landfill or energy recovery. This amount will increase with recycling targets stipulating 50% in 2025 and 55% in 2030. Chemical recycling is one of the most powerful answers to meeting those challenging targets.

Mesoporous zeolites offer chemical recycling the potential to revolutionise hard-to-recycle plastic waste streams. These deliver value in improving the catalytic pyrolysis of waste plastics. Here, Zeopore demonstrated that mesoporous faujasite and ZSM-5-based zeolite catalysts improve the overall efficiency of the process, yielding order-of-magnitude activity improvements over conventional zeolites.


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