Single-Step Conversion of Crude Oil to Petrochemicals using a Multi Zone Reactor: Reactor Design and Catalysts Assessment

  • Mohammed A. Alabdullah

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


One hundred million barrels of oil are produced every day. Economic and population growth stirred a significant increase in the demand of oil over the last century. Today circa 75% of the crude oil barrel is dedicated to the manufacture of transportation fuels, while less than a 15 % is used for the production of chemicals. However, the demand for oil derived fuels is expected to first peak and then decrease. This is mostly due to environmental concerns related to CO2 emissions, the rapid development of green energy technology and improvements in efficiency. On the other hand, the demand for petrochemicals is still forecasted to continue growing in the foreseeable future. By 2040, the barrel split is indeed expected to reach a 34% for the production of petrochemicals. To fill the chemical demand gap, we need to maximize the production of light olefins and aromatics, preferably by developing direct conversion routes leading to chemicals yields in the order of 60-65 %. By converting crude oil directly to chemicals, several energy intensive refinery processes may be optimized and/or avoided, positively impacting the environment by reducing emissions. Equally important, this technology will be highly efficient for the production of highly valued chemicals, which will lead to cost-saving and, at the same time, double the profitability. This PhD Thesis describes a catalytic reactor concept consisting of a multi-zone fluidized bed (MZFB) able to perform several refining steps in one single reactor vessel along with a new catalyst formulation. The new configuration allows for in situ catalyst stripping and regeneration, while the incorporation of silicon carbide in the formulated catalyst confers it with improved physical, mechanical, and heat transport properties. As a result, this reactor has shown stable conversion of untreated Arabian Light crude to light olefins with yields per pass over 35 wt.% with a minimum production of dry gas on spray-dried catalysts containing 1:1 mixtures of ZSM-5 and FAU zeolites (alongside binder, clay, and Silicon carbide). Coke deposition and catalyst deactivation can be correlated to the nature and content of each zeolite component.
Date of AwardSep 2021
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorJorge Gascon (Supervisor)


  • Crude Oil
  • Chemical
  • Reactor Engineering
  • Catalyst Formulation
  • Zeolites
  • Multi-zone reactor

Cite this