Propane to olefins tandem catalysis: a selective route towards light olefins production†
On-purpose synthetic routes for propylene production have emerged in the last couple of decades in response to the increasing demand for plastics and a shift to shale gas feedstocks for ethylene production. Propane dehydrogenation (PDH), an efficient and selective route to produce propylene, saw booming investments to fill the so-called propylene gap. In the coming years, however, a fluctuating light olefins market will call for flexibility in end-product of PDH plants. This can be achieved by combining PDH with propylene metathesis in a single step, propane to olefins (PTO), which allows production of mixtures of propylene, ethylene and butenes, which are important chemical building blocks for a.o. thermoplastics. The metathesis technology introduced by Phillips in the 1960s and mostly operated in reverse to produce propylene, is thus undergoing a renaissance of scientific and technological interest in the context of the PTO reaction. In this review, we will describe the state-of-the-art of PDH, propylene metathesis and PTO reactions, highlighting the open challenges and opportunities in the field. While the separate PDH and metathesis reactions have been extensively studied in the literature, understanding the whole PTO tandem-catalysis system will require new efforts in theoretical modelling and operando spectroscopy experiments, to gain mechanistic insights into the combined reactions and finally improve catalytic selectivity and stability for on-purpose olefins production.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Recent Advances in Alkane Conversion