Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Chevron Sign Fuel Research Agreement

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has signed a research agreement with Chevron to develop the next generation of catalysts for production of clean, more efficient fuels from crude oil.

The research will focus on how catalytically active surfaces form and change on contact with feed molecules and, in particular, over time, how they are influenced by promoters and impurities.

This work will utilize state-of-the art in situ methodologies developed at LLNL to examine catalysts in realistic environments and will focus on specific catalysts that exhibit high reactivity and resistance to sulfur poisoning.

Chevron would like to gain a better understanding of the promoter effects and impurity interactions at the atomic scale to improve catalyst efficiency, particularly effects of substitution of various metal atoms that influence catalyst selectivity and stability.

LLNL’s expertise in crystal growth and technical skills in the use of novel in situ surface techniques (such as atomic force microscopy – AFM) will enable Laboratory researchers to examine impurity interactions with catalytic surfaces at higher resolution than has been previously achieved.

“In-situ AFM studies in fluid environments can provide unprecedented resolution of catalytic processes,” said Chris Orme, a senior scientist in LLNL’s Biosciences and Biotechnology Division and principal investigator on the project. “This is an area where we have a lot of experience and we can -help industry create a better and cleaner fuel.”

Chevron brings its knowledge of catalyst materials and hydroprocessing, as well as experience in assessing the technical and economic viability of transforming laboratory results into industrial-scale processes.

“We hope that this is just the beginning of our relationship with Chevron in this particular area,” said Bob Glass of the Laboratory’s Energy and Environmental Security program. “We would like to develop collaborative energy efforts in a variety of projects that can utilize LLNL’s extensive nanoscale characterization techniques and world-renown computational and first principles modeling capabilities.

“We are next door neighbors, so it makes a lot of sense.”

Even though alternative automotive fuels such as hydrogen and biofuels, and fuel cell vehicles are under development, the U.S. transportation system likely will continue to rely on petroleum fuels for perhaps decades to come.

National security demands a stable supply of crude petroleum feedstocks. “Energy security is an important mission for the Lab. In the near term, we are actively engaged in developing cleaner and more efficient fuels and transportation systems using conventional fossil fuels,” said Doug Rotman, program director for the Lab’s Energy and Environmental Security in the Global Security Directorate.

“In the longer term, we are developing new fuels that can be carbon neutral or carbon free, such as biofuels and hydrogen. In broader energy security national needs, LLNL is developing advanced zero carbon energy technologies involving clean coal, wind and LIFE – or Laser Inertial Fusion-Fission Confinement Energy,” he said.

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