The oxo complexes of group VII B are of great interest for their potential toward epoxidation and dihydroxylation. In this work, the mechanisms of oxidation of ethylene by rhenium-oxo complexes of the type LReO3 (L = O−, Cl, CH3, OCH3, Cp, NPH3) have been explored at the B3LYP/LACVP* level of theory. The activation barriers and reaction energies for the stepwise and concerted addition pathways involving multiple spin states have been computed. In the reaction of LReO3 (L = O−, Cl, CH3, OCH3, Cp, NPH3) with ethylene, it was found that the concerted [3 + 2] addition pathway on the singlet potential energy surfaces leading to the formation of a dioxylate intermediate is favored over the [2 + 2] addition pathway leading to the formation of a metallaoxetane intermediate and its re-arrangement to form the dioxylate. The activation barrier for the formation of the dioxylate on the singlet PES for the ligands studied is found to follow the order O− > CH3 > NPH3 > CH3O− > Cl− > Cp and the reaction energies follow the order CH3 > O− > NPH3 > CH3O− > Cl− > Cp. On the doublet PES, the [2 + 2] addition leading to the formation the metallaoxetane intermediate is favored over dioxylate formation for the ligands L = CH3, CH3O−, Cl−. The activation barriers for the formation of the metallaoxetane intermediate are found to increase for the ligands in the order CH3 < Cl− < CH3O− while the reaction energies follow the order Cl− < CH3O− < CH3. The subsequent re-arrangement of the metallaoxetane intermediate to the dioxylate is only feasible in the case of ReO3(OCH3). Of all the complexes studied, the best dioxylating catalyst is ReO3Cp (singlet surface); the best epoxidation catalyst is ReO3Cl (singlet surface); and the best metallaoxetane formation catalyst is ReO3(NPH3) (triplet surface).
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