Transalkylation of Toluene with 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene over Zeolite Catalysts

  • Faisal Almulla

Student thesis: Phd


Benzene, toluene, and xylene are three basic raw materials for the production of most aromatic derivatives such as polyesters, plastics and detergents. Xylenes (p-, m- and o-) have the greatest market demand with an increasing annual rate of 6%. Owing to the availability of surplus toluene and low value of C9 aromatics, the transalkylation process is aimed at the production of more valued products, such as xylenes. Catalyst deactivation is a key challenge in transalkylation process. Using industrially relevant operating parameters, the transalkylation of 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene (TMB) with toluene was studied. The effect of zeolite structure and acidity, increased reaction pressure and temperature, and very low levels of platinum (Pt) impregnation has been investigated over both H-form and Pt-loaded zeolites: Beta, Mordenite (MOR), and Y. A fixed bed reactor was used at WHSV of 5 h-1, 400 oC, and a 50:50 wt. % toluene:TMB ratio with the order of activity after 50 h time-on-stream (TOS) of Y > Beta >> MOR at 1 bar. At elevated pressure (10 bar), all catalysts showed better performance with significant improvement in MOR as pore blockage was reduced and the order of activity was Beta > MOR > Y. With varying the Si/Al ratio for zeolites Beta (Si/Al = 12.5, 75 and 150) and Y (Si/Al = 2.6, 6, 15 and 30), the highest stability and xylenes yield were achieved over zeolite Beta with lowest Si/Al ratio at 41 wt. % conversion and 25 wt. % xylenes yield. In contrast, zeolites Y with Si/Al ratio of 2.6 showed the highest deactivation rate, whereas over Y zeolites with Si/Al = 6-30, the conversion was between 25-30 wt. % and xylenes yield around 11 wt. % after 50 h TOS. Incorporation of Pt (0.08 wt. %) further improved the activity of all catalysts with the highest conversion after 50 h TOS over Beta (62 wt. %) where Beta and MOR yielded similar levels of xylenes (40 wt. %). All catalysts were further optimized by reducing Pt levels whilst maintaining the desired stability and highest xylenes yield. In order to further develop a cost-effective and eco-friendly catalyst, the addition of alumina binder to Pt-Beta and the possibility of simplified regeneration of Beta/Pt-Beta catalyst were investigated. Firstly, the alumina binder reduced the conversion and xylenes yield, however, this reduction was small up to 40 wt. % added alumina binder (where xylenes yield only dropped to 35 wt. %). Secondly, the regeneration process was carried out using H2 only and up to four cycles (30 h TOS per cycle). The Pt-Beta catalyst found to be stable and the activity was fully restored by a hydrogenation process at 500 oC. However, the activity of Beta dropped gradually after each cycle suggesting that the H2 alone at 500 oC was insufficient in removing coke precursors. The drop in activity was attributed to the disappearance of Brønsted acid sites over the spent Beta catalyst due to the growth of coke molecules trapped in cavities leading to highly polyaromatic molecules blocking those active sites.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorArthur Garforth (Supervisor) & Stuart Holmes (Supervisor)


  • Beta
  • Transalkylation
  • Zeolite
  • Toluene
  • 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene
  • Disproportionation
  • Xylene

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