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Integrated Catalytic Conversion of γ-Valerolactone to Liquid Alkenes for Transportation Fuels

Bond, Jesse Q., Alonso, David Martin, Wang, Dong, West, Ryan M., Dumesic, James A.
Science 2010 v.327 no.5969 pp. 1110-1114
alkenes, aluminum oxide, aqueous solutions, carbohydrates, carbon dioxide, catalysts, decarboxylation, gasoline, greenhouse gas emissions, hydrogen, molecular weight, oligomerization, renewable energy sources, silica
Efficient synthesis of renewable fuels remains a challenging and important line of research. We report a strategy by which aqueous solutions of γ-valerolactone (GVL), produced from biomass-derived carbohydrates, can be converted to liquid alkenes in the molecular weight range appropriate for transportation fuels by an integrated catalytic system that does not require an external source of hydrogen. The GVL feed undergoes decarboxylation at elevated pressures (e.g., 36 bar) over a silica/alumina catalyst to produce a gas stream composed of equimolar amounts of butene and carbon dioxide. This stream is fed directly to an oligomerization reactor containing an acid catalyst (e.g., H ZSM-5, Amberlyst-70), which couples butene monomers to form condensable alkenes with molecular weights that can be targeted for gasoline and/or jet fuel applications. The effluent gaseous stream of CO₂ at elevated pressure can potentially be captured and then treated or sequestered to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from the process.