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Highlights in Chemical Technology

Chemical technology news from across RSC Publishing.

Better fuel through chemistry

19 January 2007

It would be cheaper and cleaner to produce fuel from Fischer-Tropsch syncrude than from crude oil, according to a South African researcher.

Alternative oil refinery types with a question mark between them

Fischer-Tropsch (FT) syncrude is a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons produced by the FT catalytic reaction from synthesis gas, a mixture of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane.

Arno de Klerk of Sasol Technology Research and Development, a company that has succeeded in commercialising Fischer-Tropsch chemistry, compared the environmental footprint of FT syncrude and crude oil by comparing their properties and the design details of both types of refinery.

'FT syncrude, like crude oil, is almost useless before it is refined. Yet, considering the amount of effort going into FT research, it is surprising how little work is being done on the refining of FT syncrude. It is a wonderful opportunity to work in such a comparatively virgin field,' said de Klerk.

"Syncrude has inherently better properties than crude oil for the production of transportation fuel."
De Klerk pointed out that syncrude has inherently better properties than crude oil for the production of transportation fuel: it contains no sulfur, nitrogen compounds or polyaromatics, which normally would have to be removed from crude oil.

Syncrude also contains olefins, making it possible to use syncrude as a feedstock to synthesise other organic compounds.

'I see this as essential reading for anyone interested in green technology,' said Graham Hutchings of the School of Chemistry, Cardiff University.

'De Klerk shows how FT can be green, and it will change people's opinions on this topic. FT technology is now a process of today and the future and not something consigned to the history books. The recent rush into gas to liquids has ensured this,' Hutchings continued.

Joanna Stevens


Environmentally friendly refining: Fischer-Tropsch versus crude oil
A de Klerk, Green Chem., 2007
DOI: 10.1039/b614187k