Removal Of Model Sulphur Compounds From Hydrocarbon Fractions By Selective Adsorption
- Acidic zeolites like H-Y, H-ZSM-5, H-MCM-22 and H-MOR zeolites were found to be the selective adsorbents for the removal of thiophene from toluene or n-heptane as solvent. The competitive adsorption of toluene is found to influence the adsorption capacity for thiophene and is more predominant when high-alumina zeolites are used as adsorbents. This behaviour is also reflected by the results of the adsorption of thiophene on H-ZSM-5 zeolites with varied nSi/nAl ratios (viz. 13, 19 and 36) from toluene and n-heptane as solvents, respectively. UV-Vis spectroscopic results show that the oligomerization of thiophene leads to the formation of dimers and trimers on these zeolites. The oligomerization in acid zeolites is regarded to be dependent on the geometry of the pore system of the zeolites. The sulphur-containing compounds with more than one ring viz. benzothiophene, which are also present in substantial amounts in certain hydrocarbon fractions, are not adsorbed on H-ZSM-5 zeolites. This is obvious, as the diameter of the pore aperture of zeolite H-ZSM-5 is smaller than the molecular size of benzothiophene. Metal ion-exchanged FAU-type zeolites are found to be promising adsorbents for the removal of sulphur-containing compounds from model solutions. The introduction of Cu+-, Ni2+-, Ce3+-, La3+- and Y3+- ions into zeolite Na+-Y by aqueous ion-exchange substantially improves the adsorption capacity for thiophene from toluene or n-heptane as solvent. More than the absolute content of Cu+-ions, the presence of Cu+-ions at the sites exposed to supercages is believed to influence the adsorption of thiophene on Cu+-Y zeolite. It was shown experimentally for the case of Cu+-Y and Ce3+-Y that the supercages present in the FAU zeolite allow for an access of bulkier sulphur-containing compounds (viz. benzothiophene, dibenzothiophene and dimethyl dibenzothiophene). The presence of these bulkier compounds compete with thiophene and are preferentially adsorbed on Cu+-Y zeolite. IR spectroscopic results revealed that the adsorption of thiophene on Na+-Y, Cu+-Y and Ni2+-Y is primarily a result of the interaction of thiophene via pi-complexation between C=C double bond (of thiophene) and metal ions (in the zeolite framework). A different mode of interaction of thiophene with Ce3+-, La3+- and Y3+-metal ions was observed in the IR spectra of thiophene adsorbed on Ce3+-Y, La3+-Y and Y3+-Y zeolites, respectively. On these adsorbents, thiophene is believed to interact via a lone electron pair of the sulphur atom with metal ions present in the adsorbent (M-S interaction). The experimental results show that there is a large difference in the thiophene adsorption capacities of pi-complexation adsorbents (like Cu+-Y, Ni2+-Y) between the model solution with toluene as solvent and the model solution with n-heptane as solvent. The lower capacity of these zeolites for the adsorption of thiophene from toluene than from n-heptane as solvent is the clear indication of competition of toluene in interating with adsorbent in a way similar to thiophene. The difference in thiophene adsorption capacities is very low in the case of adsorbents Ce3+-Y, La3+-Y and Y3+-Y, which are believed to interact with thiophene predominantly by direct M3+-S bond (thiophene interacting with metal ion via a lone pair of electrons). TG-DTA analysis was used to study the regeneration behaviour of the adsorbents. Acid zeolites can be regenerated by simply heating at 400 °C in a flow of nitrogen whereas thiophene is chemically adsorbed on the metal ion. By contrast, it is not possible to regenerate by heating under idle inert gas flow. The only way to regenerate these adsorbents is to burn off the adsorbate, which eventually brings about an undesired emission of SOx. The exothermic peaks appeared at different temperatures in the heat flow profiles of Cu+-Y, Ce3+-Y, La3+-Y and Y3+-Y are also indicating that two different types of interaction are present as revealed by IR spectroscopy, too. One major difficulty in reducing the sulphur content in fuels to value below 10 ppm is the inability in removing alkyl dibenzothiophenes, viz. 4,6 dimethyl dibenzothiophene, by the existing catalytic hydrodesulphurization technique. Cu+-Y and Ce3+-Y were found in the present study to adsorb this compound from toluene to a certain extent. To meet the stringent regulations on sulphur content, selective adsorption by zeolites could be a valuable post-purification method after the catalytic hydrodesulphurization unit.