(695h) Hydrodeoxygenation of Sorbitol to Monofunctional Fuel Precursors over Co/TiO2

Eagan, N., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Chada, J. P., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Buchanan, J. S., ExxonMobil
Huber, G. W., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dumesic, J. A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Wittrig, A., ExxonMobil
Over the next two decades, demands for heavier fuels such as jet and diesel are projected to increase while demands for lighter fuels such as gasoline are projected to decrease.1 Production of these heavy C8-C22 hydrocarbons remains a challenge when using biomass feedstocks in large part because the monomeric units which comprise cellulose and hemicellulose possess only five or six carbon atoms. One potential route for producing these fuels involves converting carbohydrates into C5+ monofunctional oxygenates (MFs) by aqueous-phase hydrodeoxygenation (APHDO) followed by performing C-C coupling reactions.2 APHDO consists of feeding a highly-oxygenated species in water at moderate temperatures (~500 K) along with hydrogen at high pressures (~6 MPa) over a bifunctional catalyst usually utilizing a noble metal on an acidic support.3 In this chemistry it is desired to control the cleavage of C-O bonds and minimize the cleavage of C-C bonds by retro-aldol condensation, decarbonylation and decarboxylation reactions.4 However, over-dehydration to lower-demand alkanes is undesired. In addition, the noble metals commonly used are costly, but utilization of low-cost base metals is often limited in APHDO due to their propensity to leach into the aqueous phase. However, recent developments have shown that Co/TiO2 catalysts can be stabilized for aqueous-phase hydrogenations utilizing high-temperature pretreatments which take advantage of the strong metal-support interaction (SMSI).5 The purpose of this study is to investigate the potential for MF production in sorbitol APHDO using a SMSI-stabilized Co/TiO2 catalyst.6

Sorbitol APHDO of Co/TiO2 produced a 56% yield (on a carbon basis) to MFs at a moderate WHSV of 0.70 h-1. This is the highest yield reported from sorbitol in the literature. We estimate the Co catalyst is 50 to 1,000 times cheaper than previously reported precious metal catalysts. Increasing space time leads to excessive deoxygenation and therefore selectivity toward alkanes and COx while decreasing space time leads to higher oxygenates, including diols, oxygenated heterocycles, unidentified O3+ species. The MFs produced are mostly primary alcohols (37% at 0.70 h-1), secondary alcohols (32%), and heterocycles (23%). Ketones (7%) and aldehydes (<1%) are produced in much lower yields. 67% of the MFs are C5+ and would therefore be suitable for coupling. FTICR-MS shows that sorbitol/anhydrosorbitol species can oligomerize at lower contact times to form C9-C18 species which appear to break down to some degree at longer contact times to eventually form MFs. Overall, the product distribution vs. WHSV suggests that about one third of the fed carbon reacts through the retro-aldol route and overall 20% of the carbon is lost to C1 gases such as CO2 and methane. The need to suppress retro-aldol condensation and decarbonylation in sorbitol APHDO is a clear limitation for the production of C5+ MFs. In the present study, Co/TiO2 catalyst shows irreversible deactivation with TOS due to sintering and leaching of the Co. Overall, this work shows that Co/TiO2 can be used to produce monofunctional fuel precursors from sorbitol at high yields, but suffers from irreversible leaching and sintering due to chelation from highly-oxygenated species.


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  6. Eagan, N. M.; Chada, J. P.; Wittrig, A. M.; Buchanan, J. S.; Dumesic, J. A.; Huber, G. W., Hydrodeoxygenation of Sorbitol to Monofunctional Fuel Precursors over Co/TiO2. Joule 2017, 1 (1), 178-199.