Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS), developed in the early 1900's, is defined as the catalytic conversion of H2 and CO to hydrocarbons and oxygenates with the production of H2O and CO2. Accurate microkinetic modeling can in principle provide insights into catalyst design and the role of promoters. This work focused on gaining an understanding of the chemistry of the kinetically relevant steps in FTS on Fe catalyst and developing a microkinetic model that describes FTS reaction kinetics. Stable Al2O3-supported/promoted (20% Fe, 1% K, 1% Pt) and unsupported Fe (99% Fe, 1% Al2O3) catalysts were prepared and characterized. Transient experiments including temperature programmed desorption (TPD), temperature programmed hydrogenation (TPH), and isothermal hydrogenation (ITH) provided insights into the chemistry and energetics of the early elementary reactions in FTS on Fe catalyst. Microkinetic models of CO TPD, ITH, and FTS were developed for Fe catalyst by combining transition state theory and UBI-QEP formalism. These models support the conclusion that hydrocarbon formation occurs on Fe via a dual mechanism involving surface carbide and formyl intermediates; nevertheless, hydrocarbon formation is more favorable via the carbide mechanism. Carbon hydrogenation was found to be the rate determining step in the carbide mechanism. CO heat of adsorption on polycrystalline Fe at zero coverage was estimated to be -91.6 kJ/mol and -64.8 kJ/mol from ITH and FTS models respectively, while a mean value of -50.0 kJ/mol was estimated from the TPD model. Statistically designed steady-state kinetic experiments at conditions similar to industrial operating conditions were used to obtain rate data. The rate data were used to develop a microkinetic model of FTS. FTS and ITH appear to follow similar reaction pathways, although the energetics are slightly different. In both cases, hydrocarbon formation via the carbide mechanism was more favorable than via a formyl intermediate while carbon hydrogenation was the rate determining step. Promotion of Fe with K does not alter Fischer-Tropsch synthesis reaction pathways but it does alter the energetics for the steps leading to the formation of CO2. This phenomenon accounts for the CO2 selectivity of 0.3 observed for K-promoted Fe against 0.17 observed for un-promoted Fe. A Langmuir Hinshelwood rate expression derived from the microkinetic model was put into a fixed bed FTS reactor design code; calculated reactor sizes, throughput, temperature profiles and conversion are similar to those of pilot and demonstration FTS reactors with similar feed rates and compositions.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Chemical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, catalysis, microkinetic modeling, iron catalyst, macrokinetic modeling, temperature programmed hydrogenation, isothermal hydrogenation, statistical design of kinetic experiment