Oil & Natural Gas Projects
Exploration and Production Technologies
Hydrogenation and Hydrodesulfurization
This project was funded through DOE's Natural Gas and Oil Technology Partnership
Program. The program establishes alliances that combine the resources and experience
of the nation's petroleum industry with the capabilities of the national laboratories
to expedite research, development, and demonstration of advanced technologies
for improved natural gas and oil recovery.
The goal is to develop a hydrogenation catalyst capable of operation at moderate
or mild conditions.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Oak Ridge, TN
Argonne National Laboratory (ANL)
A hydrogenation catalyst was developed.
The catalyst developed will assist refiners in correcting corrosion problems
that occur in heavy oil refining processes.
The processing of heavy oils is currently plagued by two major problems, one
involving presence of asphaltenes, which increases oil viscosity; and the second
involving the heteroatom content, which poses corrosion and complex refining
problems. Technology is needed to process heavy crudes in order to reduce viscosity
and heteroatom content under mild conditions. Additions of hydrogen to aromatic
and heteroatom molecules via a biological route can be a potentially attractive
alternative to upgrading heavy crudes. However, hydrogen addition to molecules
existing in petroleum using natural enzymes is difficult.
In order to make the biological enzymes work with compounds in crude oil, it
is necessary to create favorable binding interactions between the oil substrates
and enzymes. The difficulty in coupling enzymes with the hydrophobic substrates
in oil can be overcome by reducing the polarity or increasing the hydrophobicity
of the enzyme's substrate docking site. This modification was be done at ORNL.
The approach was based on understanding the enzyme-substrate interaction and
then modifying the enzyme to improve its activity. The improvements was partly
assessed using EXAFS technology in collaboration with ANL. Selected enzyme catalysts
were subjected to kinetic testing and thermal stability tests. Industrial input
was sought in catalyst development as well as in performing preliminary economic
The laboratory set-up was updated to carry out anaerobic microbiology and enzymology
work for modification of hydrogenase enzymes to be developed into desulfurization
biocatalysts. A collaboration was set up with Dr. Mike Adams at the University
of Georgia, Athens, GA, to obtain the thermophilic hydrogenase enzyme and to
study its activity against organosulfur compounds.
At ANL, catalyst-testing units have been modified for testing of catalyst samples
received from ORNL. These units include a plug flow unit that can study supported
enzymes and a stirred autoclave for studying unsupported enzymes. The plug flow
unit also has a back-mixed reactor cell for studying long-term heterogeneous
catalyst synthesis and testing. In-situ EXAFS cells have been modified and tested
for collecting data on stream for promising catalyst leads. With this equipment,
researchers should be able to tell the coordination sphere and oxidation state
of the active metals in time slices as small as one minute under reaction conditions.
Current Status (October 2005)
This project is complete.
Project Start: April 12, 2001
Project End: April 11, 2004
Anticipated DOE Contribution: $625,000
Performer Contribution: $151,000 (20% of total)
NETL - Kathleen Stirling (email@example.com or 918-699-2008)
ORNL - Abhijeet Borole (firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-576-7421)