Novel, High Activity Hydroprocessing Catalysts: Iron Group Phosphides
A series of iron, cobalt and nickel transition metal phosphides was synthesized by means of temperature-programmed reduction (TPR) of the corresponding phosphates. The same materials, Fe₂P, CoP and Ni₂P, were also prepared on a silica (SiO₂) support. The phase purity of these catalysts was established by x-ray diffraction (XRD), and the surface properties were determined by N₂ BET specific surface area (Sg) measurements and CO chemisorption. The activities of the silica-supported catalysts were tested in a three-phase trickle bed reactor for the simultaneous hydrodenitrogenation (HDN) of quinoline and hydrodesulfurization (HDS) of dibenzothiophene using a model liquid feed at realistic conditions (30 atm, 370 °C). The reactivity studies showed that the nickel phosphide (Ni₂P/SiO₂) was the most active of the catalysts. Compared with a commercial Ni-Mo-S/g-Al₂O₃ catalyst at the same conditions, Ni₂P/silica had a substantially higher HDS activity (100 % vs. 76 %) and HDN activity (82 % vs. 38 %).
Because of their good hydrotreating activity, an extensive study of the preparation of silica supported nickel phosphides, Ni₂P/SiO₂, was carried out. The parameters investigated were the phosphorus content and the weight loading of the active phase. The most active composition was found to have a starting synthesis Ni/P ratio close to 1/2, and the best loading of this sample on silica was observed to be 18 wt.%.
Extended x-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) and x-ray absorption near edge spectroscopy (XANES) measurements were employed to determine the structures of the supported samples. The main phase before and after reaction was found to be Ni₂P, but some sulfur was found to be retained after reaction.
A comprehensive scrutiny of the HDN reaction mechanism was also made over the Ni₂P/SiO₂ sample (Ni/P = 1/2) by comparing the HDN activity of a series of piperidine derivatives of different structure. It was found that piperidine adsorption involved an a-H activation and nitrogen removal proceeded mainly by means of a b-H activation though an elimination (E2) mechanism. The relative elimination rates depended on the type and number of b-hydrogen atoms. Elimination of b-H atoms attached to tertiary carbon atoms occurred faster than those attached to secondary carbon atoms. Also, the greater the number of the b-H atoms, the higher the elimination rates. The nature of the adsorbed intermediates was probed by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and temperature-programmed desorption (TPD) of the probe molecule, ethylamine. This measurement allowed the determination of the likely steps in the hydrodenitrogenation reaction.