What problems does the chemical industry experience when processing sustainable alternative feedstocks?

(23-06-2022) In her PhD, Cato Pappijn investigates how sustainable alternative feedstocks can be chemically processed in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

The gradual shift from fossil to renewable alternative feedstocks, motivated by increasingly stringent environmental regulations to address climate change and depleted reserves of fossil raw materials, poses a challenge to the chemical industry.

Indeed, renewable feedstocks, such as naphthas that are of biological origin or derived from waste, contain significant amounts of heteroatomic compounds (nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur). These heteroatomic compounds lead to the formation of hazardous components such as NH3, NOx and SOx, which can have a negative impact on the operation of the process, in terms of safety, operability and product quality and whose emissions are also harmful to people and the environment.

"An in-depth knowledge regarding thermochemical reactions of these compounds is crucial for the realization of this transition," explains Cato.

"My doctoral research mainly focuses on the pyrolysis and oxidation reactions of these heteroatomic compounds and how the chemistry is affected by the presence of a hydrocarbon matrix, as is the case in the steam cracking process," Cato continued.

"The goal of my research was to study the thermochemical reactions of heteroatomic compounds, both impurities and typically used process additives, through a combination of quantum chemical calculations, experimental work and computer-based kinetic modeling," Cato concludes.

Read a more detailed summary or the entire PhD


PhD Title: Unraveling the Pyrolysis and Oxidation Chemistry of Nitrogen, Oxygen and Sulfur Containing Hydrocarbon Mixtures


Contact: Cato Pappijn, Marie-Françoise Reyniers, Kevin Van Geem

Cato Pappijn

Cato Pappijn was born in Kortrijk on 9 May 1995. After graduating from high school in 2012 in Latin Mathematics, she started her engineering studies at Ghent University. There she obtained her bachelor's degree in 2015 and graduated in 2017 with highest distinction in the Master of Engineering: chemical engineering.

In September 2017, Cato joined the Laboratory of Chemical Technology (LCT) at Ghent University to start a PhD under the supervision of prof. dr. ir. Kevin Van Geem and prof. dr. Marie-Françoise Reyniers. She received a grant from the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO) to fund her research on the thermochemical reactions of heteroatomic compounds using a combined computational, experimental and computer modeling approach.

In 2018, she spent five weeks at LRGP (Nancy, France), where she focused on the experimental pyrolysis and oxidation of model compounds under the supervision of prof. dr. ir. Frédérique Battin-Leclerc and dr. ir. Olivier Herbinet. Her research has already led to four A1 publications as first author and several contributions at international conferences. During her PhD, Cato supervised several master's thesis students and was involved in the course unit "Sustainable Chemical Production Processes" from the Master of Engineering: Chemical Engineering.



Editor: Jeroen Ongenae - Illustrator: Roger Van Hecke