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Predicting thermal excursions during in situ oxidative regeneration of packed bed catalytic fast pyrolysis catalyst...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Reaction Chemistry & Engineering
Publication Date
Page Numbers
888 to 904

Ex situ catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) uses a secondary reactor to upgrade biomass pyrolysis vapors to stabilized CFP oils with reduced oxygen content. In one configuration, the secondary reactor is operated as a packed-bed swing reactor system which allows coke-deactivated beds to be decarbonized in situ while other beds remain online for vapor upgrading. In situ decarbonization must be done carefully to avoid irreversible deactivation and/or physical degradation of catalyst pellets. Given that packed bed reactors are well known to have poor heat transfer characteristics, this is a critical issue impacting scaleability and commercial viability of the technology. To predict thermal excursions during regeneration, finite element computational models have been built to assist in scaling up oxidative decarbonization of a Pt/TiO2 CFP catalyst (0.5 mm spheres) from a bench scale packed bed with 100 g of catalyst to a pilot scale packed bed with 2 kg of catalyst and internal cooling tubes. Based on transient measurements of outlet temperature and effluent CO2 concentration, and using an assumed coke profile and activation energy, this paper demonstrates that specific combinations of effective thermal conductivity and wall heat transfer coefficient can fit bench scale oxidative regeneration data equally well. For the upscaled 2 kg bed, four bench-scale “best fit” parameter pairs give different predictions for location and magnitude of thermal excursions, with the maximum computed bed temperature gradients ranging from 30 °C cm−1 to as high as 3000 °C cm−1. The larger the fraction of heat removal by conduction through the cooling tubes, the greater the differences between the parameter pairs. The modelling results presented in this paper cast doubt on the industrial viability of the proposed combination of catalyst, bed and regeneration process, and point to the need for alternate reactor designs. However, there is considerable uncertainly in some of the key model parameters. The reliability of model predictions can be increased by adding more temperature measurements at key bed locations, testing additional variations in process conditions, performing careful bed dissections to determine the true coke profile, and perhaps most importantly, directly measuring the effective thermal conductivity of the catalyst pellets.