Parametric Study of Pt/C-Catalysed Hydrothermal Decarboxylation of Butyric Acid as a Potential Route for Biopropane Production

Razaq, I.; Simons, K.E.; Onwudili, J.A.

Sustainable fuel-range hydrocarbons can be produced via the catalytic decarboxylation of biomass-derived carboxylic acids without the need for hydrogen addition. In this present study, 5 wt% platinum on carbon (Pt/C) has been found to be an effective catalyst for hydrothermally decarboxylating butyric acid in order to produce mainly propane and carbon dioxide. However, optimisation of the reaction conditions is required to minimise secondary reactions and increase hydrocarbon selectivity towards propane. To do this, reactions using the catalyst with varying parameters such as reaction temperatures, residence times, feedstock loading and bulk catalyst loading were carried out in a batch reactor. The highest yield of propane obtained was 47 wt% (close to the theoretical decarboxylation yield of 50 wt% on butyric acid basis), corresponding to a 96% hydrocarbon selectivity towards propane. The results showed that the optimum parameters to produce the highest yield of propane, from the range investigated, were 0.5 g butyric acid (0.57 M aqueous solution), 1.0 g Pt/C (50 mg Pt content) at 300 °C for 1 h. The reusability of the catalyst was also investigated, which showed little or no loss of catalytic activity after four cycles. This work has shown that Pt/C is a suitable and potentially hydrothermally stable heterogeneous catalyst for making biopropane, a major component of bioLPG, from aqueous butyric acid solutions, which can be sourced from bio-derived feedstocks via acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) fermentation.

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