(210e) Impact of Organic and Inorganic Impurities on Catalyst Performance and Finished Product in the Production of Acrylonitrile from Biomass

Tupsakhare, S., Southern Research
Goyal, A., Southern Research
Samad, J. E., Southern Research
Govedarica, Z., Southern Research
Impact of organic and inorganic impurities on catalyst performance and finished product in the production of acrylonitrile from biomass.

Swanand Tupsakhare, Zora Govedarica, Jadid E. Samad, and Amit Goyal

Energy and Environment Division

Southern Research, 5201 International Drive, Durham, NC 27712

Ninety percent of the world’s carbon fiber production utilizes acrylonitrile as a raw material, growing at 11 to 18 percent per year. Due to the high growth rate of carbon fiber production, any reduction in GHG originating from Acrylonitrile production will be highly impactful. Conventionally, acrylonitrile is produced from propylene ammoxidation and highly dependent on volatility in propylene markets. The current method makes use of an alternative approach using sugars obtained from biomass feedstock. Southern Research in partnership (DOE/EERE program) has developed a method to provide renewable acrylonitrile produced from biomass-derived second generation sugars.

The process produces a direct, drop-in replacement for petroleum acrylonitrile that is both economically competitive and sustainable, lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 40 percent. The proposed process for producing acrylonitrile from biomass-derived sugars has the promise of changing the economics and environmental footprint of this important specialty chemical. An innovative, thermo-catalytic process has been developed that converts second generation sugars obtained from biomass to acrylonitrile. The objective of this work is to expand the range of biomass feedstock that can be used and to understand how the process is affected by impurities that change when different types of biomass and different biomass-to-sugar (hydrolysis) processes are used. Experimental data will allow better prediction and improvement in the overall cost and application areas for carbon fibers.

This paper will present results for - top biomass candidates ideally suited for acrylonitrile production are screened based on the impurity levels and imposed effects on the process. Organic and inorganic impurities found in wheat straw, corn stover biomass, sugar cane bagasse, sorghum straw and hybrid poplar were identified and tested in lab (using commercial grade sugars) for their impact on catalyst performance, catalyst selectivity to desired products and the concentration in finished products. The impurity levels tested were chosen to be the highest values reported in the literature to allow the applicability of the results to a wide range of biomass sugars.