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Int. J. Energy Res. 2014; 38:16241634

Published online 13 July 2014 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com). DOI: 10.1002/er.3244

Mathematical modelling of a hydrocracking reactor for

triglyceride conversion to biofuel: model establishment
and validation
A. A. Forghani1,2,*,, M. Jafarian2, P. Pendleton3 and D. M. Lewis1
Micro-algae Engineering Research Group, School of Chemical Engineering, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005,
Centre for Energy Technology, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia
Center for Molecular and Materials Sciences, Sansom Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia

In the study, a 2D, non-isothermal, heterogeneous model of a triglyceride hydrocracking reactor is investigated. The inter-
nal heat and mass transfer within the phases in the reactor were considered using the lm theory. The conservation
equations for energy and mass were solved simultaneously using appropriate numerical techniques whose reliability was
assessed by comparison of the results with previously reported experimental data. The modelling was performed with
consideration of two proposed hydrocracking kinetic models. The model predictions showed reasonable correlation with
published experimental data and conversion rates. The calculations indicated that at feed temperature of 380 C, liquid
hourly space velocity of 8 h1 and hydrogen : feed ratio of 1500:1, the total triglyceride conversion was 82.54% for four
major classes of hydrocarbons (light, middle, heavy and oligomerised). In addition, the concentration distribution and
temperature prole along the reactor were investigated. The product concentrations along the reactor show that higher rates
of production at the beginning of the reactor were achieved because of high concentration of triglyceride due to the
exothermic hydrocracking reactions and counter-current ow modes of triglyceride and hydrogen; a jump of 90 C was
shown at the beginning of the reactor temperature prole. Copyright 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
triglyceride conversion; hydrocracking kinetics; reactor modelling; biofuel

*A. A. Forghani, Micro-algae Engineering Research Group, School of Chemical Engineering, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA
5005, Australia.

E-mail: amir.forghani@adelaide.edu.au

Received 25 March 2014; Revised 5 June 2014; Accepted 1 July 2014

1. INTRODUCTION low aromatics and sulfur content of produced fuel, lower

air pollution on burning compared with fossil fuels, the
The combustion of fossil fuels over the last hundred years potential abundance of micro-algae, their relatively low cost
has led to a signicant increase in greenhouse gas emis- of nourishment and their overall environmental compatibil-
sions, which is considered to be linked to the simultaneous ity [4,69]. One of several ways to convert triglyceride to
increase in the global mean temperature [1]. However, different ranges of hydrocarbons is via hydrocracking [10].
despite the urgent need to decrease these emissions, fossil Therefore, the overall aim of this work is to investigate the
fuels still account for ~80% of the world energy demand production of three types of fuels (light, middle and heavy
[2,3]. The dependency on these sources of energy in the ranges of hydrocarbon) by hydrocracking triglyceride
mid-to-long term will result in the depletion of natural substrates within a trickle-bed reactor [11].
reserves of fossil fuels and subsequently increase their cost Single-step and multi-step processes have been
[1,2]. Consequently, renewable and sustainable fuel proposed to convert triglyceride and bio-oil to different
sources are receiving increased attention. One such ranges of hydrocarbon [12,13]. Hydrocracking is a
sustainable resource is micro-algae from which triglycer- relatively efcient, single-step conversion process in terms
ides may be extracted and reduced to a fuel source [4,5]. of energy consumption and process simplicity [6,9,13].
Several factors promote micro-algae feedstock: potentially The hydrocracking process produces primarily linear

1624 Copyright 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Analysis of a hydrocracking reactor for triglyceride conversion A. A. Forghani et al.

alkanes from micro-algal oil via three major reactions: They proposed seven different reaction mechanisms to
de-oxygenation, selective cracking and isomerisation model triglyceride hydrocracking over alumina-supported
towards light (gasoline and kerosene) and middle hydro- CoMo mixed catalysts. In their study, they grouped reac-
carbon (jet fuel) production [7]. In this process, large tants and products into various assortments, referred to as
hydrocarbon molecules are fragmented to smaller lumps; for example, the reactant triglyceride was identied
components over specic catalysts in a hydrogen-rich as a lump consisting of four major components as stearic
atmosphere. The rate and selectivity of each reaction acid, palmitic acid, linoleic acid and oleic acid. They also
depends on both the properties of the selected catalyst used four product lumps: light hydrocarbons (LC), middle
and the reaction conditions [11]. hydrocarbons (MC), heavy hydrocarbon (HC) and
There is increasing interest in the different aspects of oligomerised products (OC). The rate of reaction as a func-
catalytic hydro-reforming of micro-algae oil [12,1417]. tion of both temperature and concentrations for each lump
To optimise the conversion reforming reactions, localised was identied [14]. However, they proposed that each re-
experimental measurements are required at high pressure action kinetics model is appropriate for a specic range
and temperature. The large number of reaction design op- of temperature.
tions renders empirical optimisation both time-consuming In the reported studies, the simulation strategy were
and costly. Alternatively, numerical analysis provides an applied to model the reaction kinetics in the reactor, vali-
appropriate and complementary methodology to investi- date the reactor model with experimental data and check
gate reaction kinetics and identify how to improve the total the inuence of operating conditions on the reactions
conversion efciency. Of the recent numerical modelling and reactor performance. A primary aim of this work is
methods, Bhaskar et al. [18] presented a three-phase to develop and validate the most appropriate reaction
heterogeneous model that was applied to simulate the per- kinetic models for triglyceride hydrocracking and thus
formance of a trickle-bed reactor for hydro-desulfurisation simulate and investigate the performance of a proposed
of diesel fractions of crude oil [18]. They investigated the hydrocracking reactor.
inuence of temperature and feed-rates on the hydro-
treating reactions and products and analysed the perfor-
mance of the reactor under various operating conditions 2. MODEL DESCRIPTION
[18]. A mathematical model of a heterogeneous trickle-
bed reactor for the hydro-treatment of vacuum gas oil A schematic representation of the trickle-bed reactor is
was presented by [19]. In this model, the two-lm theory shown in Figure 1(a). The system for which mass and
was applied to assess the performance of the reactor in energy balances were developed consisted of a catalyst
terms of temperature, pressure, space velocity and the bed enclosed in a thermally conductive reactor, allowing
gas/oil ratio [19]. Also they found from their model that isothermal operation under steady-state conditions. To op-
incomplete catalyst wetting and low feed velocity lead to erate the reactor in an isothermal condition, a heating
poor conversion of crude oil hydro-treating reactions in jacket was needed to maintain the reactor temperature.
the pilot-plant reactor. Alvarez and Ancheyta [20] deve- The triglyceride, as a rich, dense feed, entered from the
loped a heterogeneous plug-ow model for a hydro- top and hydrogen gas entered from the bottom of the reac-
processing xed bed reactor to describe the behaviour of tor allowing counter-current ow over and around the sta-
the crude oil residue. In their model, the gasliquid and tionary, solid phase supported catalyst, which promoted a
liquidsolid mass transfer and experimental kinetic data well-mixed continuous (uid) phase. Throughout the reac-
were considered for validation of their model using tor, hydrogen was assumed to be absorbed by the liquid
pilot-plant data. Their model results showed good agree- phase and transfers to the liquidsolid interface, promoting
ment with the experimental data, and a higher (818%) hydrocracking reactions. The reaction products as LC,
performance could be achieved by the scaling up their MC, HC and OC dispersed through the gas and liquid
pilot-plant reactors. No operational performance of a phases, transporting up or down the reactor, with their re-
hydrocracking trickle-bed reactor for micro-algal bio-oil spective (average) densities, and thus direction, depending
has been reported in the literature. Therefore, a clear aim on the operating temperature and pressure. An element of
of the reported work is to present a heterogeneous plug- the reactor with length z, shown in Figure 1(c), was
ow model of a trickle-bed reactor for hydrocracking of employed in deriving the mass and energy balance expres-
micro-algal bio-oil. sions for the model.
The major section in setting up a reliable trickle-bed re-
actor model is dening a reliable reaction kinetic. Several
studies investigated the reaction pathway of hydrocracking 3. MATHEMATICAL MODEL OF THE
of triglyceride, which is the major component of bio-oil. HYDROCRACKING TRICKLE-BED
For instance, Benson et al. and Kloprogge et al. studied REACTOR
the reaction pathways of triglyceride cracking and
upgrading over acidic zeolitic structures [15,21]. The Modelling is one of the most efcient ways to evaluate
mechanism of hydrocracking of jathropha oil at different plant performance. Recently, models were employed to
temperatures was discussed by Anand and Sinha [14]. optimise the impact of changes in design variables. The

Int. J. Energy Res. 2014; 38:16241634 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 1625
DOI: 10.1002/er
A. A. Forghani et al. Analysis of a hydrocracking reactor for triglyceride conversion

Figure 1. (a) Schematic representation of the trickle-bed reactor, (b) lm theory over the catalyst and (c) the selected element of the
trickle-bed reactor for development of the governing equations.

rst step to make an efcient model is the formation of the reactor, all components such as triglyceride and all lump
appropriate mass and energy balance equations. To this set products remained in the liquid phase thermodynamically.
of equations, suitable kinetic equations that represent the
rate of reaction/s are added [22].
In the reported study, the model was developed for a
lab-scale trickle-bed reactor by using a two-lm theory, 4. MODEL EQUATION
which incorporated mass transfer at the gasliquid and
liquidsolid interfaces, and employed previously published The large number of components produced within the hy-
[20,18,23,24,19]. This reactor model enabled optimisation drocracking synthesis was classied using ve lumps.
of the operational conditions of hydrocracking processes at The triglyceride lump (Tg) consisted of four components:
lab-scale and estimated the scalability of the hydrocracking stearic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid and linoleic acid.
at large scale. The following assumptions were made for The four product lumps as LC, MC, HC and OC is shown
the three-phase heterogeneous reactor model: in Figure 2, which is separated into two reaction kinetics
models A1 and A7, extracted from Anand and Sinhas
1. Plug ow along the reactor with no radial concentra- [14] analyses because these were relevant to the modelled
tion gradient; triglyceride conversion at temperatures >360 C, the mini-
2. The trickle-bed reactor operated at steady-state mum temperature of our proposed process [14]. In model
conditions; A1, triglyceride was converted directly to LC, MC, HC
3. The reactor operated isothermally; and OC via distinct reactions with discrete rate constants.
4. Axial heat dispersion was negligible; The A7 model (Figure 2 (b)) considered a more compre-
5. Light components phase change was negligible; and hensive process, wherein four primary reactions again con-
6. All reactions occurred at the liquidcatalyst surface vert the triglyceride to LC, MC, HC and OC directly,
interface. followed by two subordinate reactions, which further con-
vert HC to MC and MC to LC. In the model, each reaction
All the assumptions are valid and reasonable to apply in rate constant was identied as ki . However, Anand and
the mathematical model. For example, because the ratio of Sinha [14] proposed various kinetic models for hydro-
length per diameter of reactor (diameter is 1.3 cm and cracking of triglyceride, but in this study, we investigated
length is 30 cm) has a large number, then the rst and fth their model and data for reactor modelling and validation.
assumptions are justied. The experimental data were col- Differential mass and energy balance expressions were
lected at the steady-state condition by a lab-scale trickle- developed using the aforementioned assumptions general-
bed reactor, and also the lab-scale of trickle-bed reactor ised expression for mass distribution along the reactor for
was operated isothermally to obtain experimental data; transfer from the gasliquid interface to the gas phase for
therefore, the fourth section is justied. For justication each considered lump and hydrogen gas is given in Eq.
of the seventh section, according to the temperature and 1. For each lump, an evaporation model for an ideal mix-
pressure of hydrocracking reactions in the trickle-bed ture was employed.

1626 Int. J. Energy Res. 2014; 38:16241634 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/er
Analysis of a hydrocracking reactor for triglyceride conversion A. A. Forghani et al.

Figure 2. A1 (a) and A7 (b) reaction kinetics models that are proposed by Anand and Sinha [14] for triglyceride conversion.

For lipid and triglyceride as the feedstock (Tg): For hydrogen (H2):

PgTg K lTg :a:Ac PgH 2 K l :a:Ac R:T g PgH 2
ug :A:  xTg PTg  PgTg ; (1)  H2  ClH 2 ; (6)
z R:T g z ug hH 2

For LC:
where, ug, xi, Pgi and K gi are the gas velocity, ith lump,
i = LC, MC, HC and OC, liquid mole fraction in the gas
PgLC K l :a:Ac  
ug :A:  LC xLC PLC  PgLC ; (2) and liquid interface, partial pressure and mass transfer
z R:T g coefcients in gas phase, respectively.

4.1. Mass balance equations in liquid phase

For MC:
The differential equations of mass balance for the concentra-
tions of hydrogen and light, middle, heavy and oligomerised
PgMC K l :a:Ac   hydrocarbon in the liquid phase can be written by equating
ug :A:  MC xMC PMC  PgMC ; (3) the concentration gradients for the mass transfer of Tg,
z R:T g
LC, MC, HC, OC and H2 across the gasliquid interface
as follows:
For and triglyceride as the feedstock (Tg),
For HC:

PgHC K l :a:Ac   C LTg K gTg :a:Ac

ug :A:  HC xHC PHC  PgHC ; (4) uL :A: r LL xTg PTg  PgTg : (7)
z R:T g z R:T g

For OC: For LC,

PgOC K l :a:Ac   ClLC K l :a:Ac  

ug :A:  OC xOC POC  PgOC ; (5) uL :A: r LC LC xLC PLC  PgLC : (8)
z R:T g z R:T g

Int. J. Energy Res. 2014; 38:16241634 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 1627
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A. A. Forghani et al. Analysis of a hydrocracking reactor for triglyceride conversion

For HC: Table I. Lump reaction rate constants and activation energy
C lHC K l :a:Ac  
uL :A: r HC HC xHC PHC  PgHC ; (9) Lump reaction Activation
z R:T g Reactant and rate constant energy
product lumps (h ) (kJ/mol)
Triglycerides (Tg) 31.97 10 26
For OC: 5
Lighter hydrocarbons (LC) 62.62 10 83
Middle hydrocarbons (MC) 4.2 10 127
ClOC K l :a:Ac   4
uL :A: r OC OC xOC POC  PgOC ; (10) Heavy hydrocarbons (HC) 13.73 10 47
z R:T g Oligomerised hydrocarbon (OC) 14.58 10

4.3. Energy balance equation for the

reaction bed
where uL, C Li , ri,
and Pgi Pi
are the liquid velocity, ith lump,
i = LC, MC, HC and OC, liquid concentration, rate of reaction The energy balance equations for the liquid and gas phases
for each lump, partial pressure in the gas phase and saturation were developed to assess the temperature variation in the
pressure in the liquidgas phase interface, respectively. catalyst bed of the reactor as the reaction bed.
For liquid phase:
4.2. Chemical reaction model
T L X  
Triglyceride hydrocracking reaction kinetic model devel- mg C lP r i H i Ac  hG aA T g  T l
opment has been hindered by its overall complexity
 2r in hl T w  T l : (19)
[14,15,21]. More recently, a comprehensive suite of possi-
ble reaction pathway was developed in 2012 [14,15,21],
with each path depending on the reaction conditions. For
the proposed reactor development, the reaction pathways For gas phase,
summarised in Figure 2 were appropriate. The reaction rate
expressions for model A1 are listed as follows: T g  
mg C gP hG a:A T g  T l
r LL k1 k2 k 3 k4 CTg ; (11) z
 2r in 1  hl T w  T g ; (20)
r LC k1 C Tg ; (12)

r MC k2 C Tg ; (13) where mg, Clp, TL, Tg, Tw, hG, , hl and Hi are mass ow-
rate, specic heat capacity of liquid phase, liquid tempera-
r HC k3 C Tg ; (14) ture, gas temperature, reactor wall temperature, gas heat
transfer coefcient, bed porosity, liquid heat transfer coef-
r OC k4 CTg : (15) cient and enthalpy of reaction for each lump, respec-
tively. Also the calculation of the enthalpy of each lump
For model A7, two subordinate cracking reactions between reaction is shown:
HC and MC are needed to be considered. The rst reaction (as X X
reaction 5) cracks HC to MC, and the second (as reaction 6) H i H p  H r : (21)
Products Reactants
cracks MC to LC. The rate of reaction expressions are as follows:
Here Hp and Hr are the enthalpy of all products and
r HCMC k 5 CHC ; (16) reactants, respectively, which are triglyceride and hydrogen.

r MCLC k 6 C MC ; (17)
4.4. Energy balance equation for the tube of
the reactor
where ki and Ci, ith lump, i = LC, MC, HC and OC are rate con-
stants and liquid concentration, respectively. The reaction rate In this section, temperature variation of the reactor tube (reac-
constant for each lump was estimated from the Arrhenius equa- tor wall) was considered in the model, where the reactor tube
tion using data summarised in Table I. temperature variation was considered in two dimensions in the
The percentage yield of each lump during hydrocrack- model. The reactor conguration was assumed as a vertical
ing was dened as follows: cylinder, and the energy balance for the reactor tube (wall) is

mass of each lump 2 T w 1 T w

Yi *100% (18) K K: 0: (22)
mass of triglycerides z2 r r r

1628 Int. J. Energy Res. 2014; 38:16241634 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/er
Analysis of a hydrocracking reactor for triglyceride conversion A. A. Forghani et al.

The boundary conditions are as follows: 4.6. Molecular diffusivity

At r r out K hout T  T amb ; (23) In order to determine the gasliquid mass transfer coefcient,
r it is essential to calculate the molecular diffusivity of each
T   lump and hydrogen in the liquid and gas. The diffusivity
At r r in K hin T  T f ; (24)
r was determined by the Fuller correlation [25].

T DAB 1108 :T 1:75 1=M A 1=M B 0:5

At z 0&z L 0; (25) X 1 X 1 2 (29)
r P i =3 i =3 ;

where Tamb and Tf are the ambient and uid temperature re-
spectively and hin and hout are the heat transfer coefcients in- where P, Mi and vi are the total pressure, molecular weight of
side and outside of the reaction side of the reactor. each lump and the specic volume of each lump, respec-
tively. The aforementioned parameters for each component
4.5. Gasliquid mass transport analyses were derived from Perrys handbook, and then they were
calculated for lumps by applying the rule of mixtures [26].
Because all the hydrocracking reactions were taken place
in the liquidcatalyst interface, the transportation of mass
between gas and liquid phase should be considered in the 5. NUMERICAL SOLUTION
model. The correlation for the estimation of the gasliquid
mass transfer coefcients is [19] To solve these sets of partial differential equations, the mass
and energy balance equations were discretised and solved
0:765 0:365
jD 0:82
0:386 (26) simultaneously using the modied GaussSeidel iteration
Re Re technique [27]. The numerical algorithm is illustrated in
Sh Figure 3. According to the algorithm, the input parameters
jD (27) such as feed temperature, pressure, ow-rate and H2 : feed ra-
Re:Sc1 =3
tio were specied. Initial distribution of temperature and lump
concentrations was assumed along the reactor. Conservation
Sh (28) equations for energy and mass balances are discretised and
DAB solved simultaneously using modied GaussSeidel iteration
method to determine the temperature and concentration distri-
Here , DAB, Sh, Re and Sc are porosity, molecular bution along the reactor. This process continued until conver-
diffusion, Sherwood, Reynolds and Schmidt numbers, gence was reached. The output of the model provides the lump
respectively. concentration and temperature distribution along the reactor.

Figure 3. Numerical algorithm that was applied in the hydrocracking reactor model.

Int. J. Energy Res. 2014; 38:16241634 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 1629
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A. A. Forghani et al. Analysis of a hydrocracking reactor for triglyceride conversion

The catalyst specications and operating conditions that were was performed by using the experimental data reported
applied in the model are listed in Table II. The production yield by Anand and Sinha [14]. The model was run with two
of three major lumps of LC, MC and HC were the target for different kinetics models of A1 and A7 using different
the model validation and optimisation. The model sensitivity temperatures for validation. The product lumps of LC,
analysis was performed and reported in the second section. MC, HC and OC were considered as major products. In
the Figure 4 and Table III, the reactor model based on
A1 and A7 kinetic models was compared with the exper-
imental data in terms of yields versus temperature. To
6. MODEL VALIDATION obtain the validation results, the reactor model was run
with a xed temperature. For all major product lumps,
To evaluate the accuracy and validity of the mathematical the A7 kinetic model has a good agreement with
model, validation is essential. Validation of the model experimental data in terms of the average deviation from
experimental data. The average errors of the applied A1
and A7 kinetic models in the reactor model were
Table II. The operating conditions and catalyst specications
43.42% and 26.6%, respectively for the LC lump, 20.9%
chosen for the simulation of the hydrocracking reactor [14].
and 8.2%, respectively for the MC lump, and 11.4% and
Catalyst 4% CoO, 16% MoO3, 2.8%, respectively for the HC lump. According to previ-
1% P2O5 on -Al2O3 ously reported literature for reactor modelling [2729], the
Catalyst mass 2g aforementioned error values show good agreement of the
Catalyst volume 2.4 ml A7 kinetic model to reality, and the large deviation of A1
Catalyst shape Powder kinetics model from the experimental data was attributed
Feed inlet temperature 380 C to failure consideration of subordinate reactions between
Reactor pressure 80 bar the lump products and minor differences in model assump-
tions. Therefore, the A7 kinetic model was deemed to be
H2 : feed ratio 1500
2 suitable for the investigation of the yield of products and
Heat ow 1000 W/m
reaction temperature.

Figure 4. Comparison of product yields of (a) light hydrocarbon lump (LC), (b) middle hydrocarbon lump (MC) and (c) heavy hydrocar-
bon lump (HC) by A1 and A7 kinetic models with experimental data [14].

1630 Int. J. Energy Res. 2014; 38:16241634 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/er
Analysis of a hydrocracking reactor for triglyceride conversion A. A. Forghani et al.

Table III. Experimental products yield of LC, MC and HC temperature prole, and the gas temperature prole is
versus. A1 and A7 kinetic models. less than the liquid, because of the difference in their
Experimental A1 kinetic A7 kinetic
heat transfer coefcient [14,30,13].
Temperature (C) data model model As shown in Figure 1, triglyceride and hydrogen were
injected from the top and bottom of the reactor, respec-
Low hydrocarbon production yield (LC) tively (counter-current ow). Therefore, the gas inlet point
300 0.081 0.2095 0.172 is at the end of the reactor where the gas temperature
340 0.572 0.6856 0.5856 prole varied linearly along the reaction bed. From these
360 0.873 0.9818 0.9218 data, it is clear that the triglyceride-cracking reactions
380 1.715 1.4006 1.461 started after entering the reactor. The hydrogen and cata-
Middle hydrocarbon production yield (MC)
lyst bed were maintained at an appropriate temperature to
300 0.083 0.2155 0.112
allow the required heat ux to control the temperature of
320 0.473 0.5026 0.7026
the reactor. The gas phase temperature increased linearly
340 2.092 1.1006 1.5006
along the reactor because the gas physical properties
360 3.994 2.2758 2.8758
remain constant between 380 and 450 C. The liquid
Heavy hydrocarbon production yield (HC)
320.00 50.23 44.6926 49.8936
temperature increased rapidly to 470 C because of low
340.00 37.07 31.8451 40.8451 liquid ow-rate and rapid heat absorption at the beginning
360.00 72.47 65.8153 71.8153 of the hydrocracking endothermic reactions. The liquid
temperature then decreased with the same trend of wall
temperature prole as the triglyceride concentration dimin-
ished along the reactor to about 420 C, and heat was
7. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION absorbed during the hydrocracking reactions.
The concentration, mole fraction and the yield of pro-
To show the result of the model, the calculation param- duction for all lumps along the reactor are shown in
eters were assessed at the inlet temperature of 380 C, Figure 6. In the assumptions, it was mentioned that the
liquid hourly space velocity (LHSV) of 8 h1, pressure reactions are taken place in the liquid phase, and all the
of 80 bar and H2 : feed ratio of 1500, and the A7 results about lump productions along the reactor were in
kinetic model based on the validation results was the liquid phase. As shown in Figure 6(a), the triglyceride
selected because of low deviation from the experimen- concentration, as one of the reactants, decreased from
tal data. 2.246 to 0.39 mol/m3, along the reactor and residual tri-
In the lab-scale hydrocracking unit, the trickle-bed glyceride exited the reactor. This decrease in triglyceride
reactor was situated in a furnace to control the reactor concentration had a higher rate at the reactor entrance,
temperature by a constant heat ow. A constant heat and then the slope of triglyceride consumption decreased
ux along the reactor surface was assumed in the along the reactor. For example, from the reactor entrance
model, and the obtained temperature prole along the to X/L0 of 0.2, the mole fraction of triglyceride decreased
reactor is shown in Figure 5. The applied parameter from 1 to 0.6068, but from the X/L0 of 0.2 to 0.4, the mole
of X/L0 is the dimensionless form of the reactor length. fraction varied from 0.6068 to 0.3689. The reasons for the
A constant heat ow of 1000 W/m2 was considered in higher rate of triglyceride consumption at the beginning of
the model. The inlet temperatures of triglyceride (liquid the reactor demonstrate adequate triglyceride concentration
phase) and hydrogen (gas phase) were both 380 C. The and a high pre-heated volume of hydrogen with the temper-
liquid temperature prole is less than the wall ature above 400 C. The aforementioned reasons improve
the hydrocracking reactions and lead to higher rate of
triglyceride consumption and higher rate of hydrocarbon
production at the preliminary length of the reactor.
According to concentration and mole fraction data
(Figure 6(a and b)), the conversion of triglyceride to hydro-
carbon was 82.54%. The majority of the triglyceride
conversion moved forward to heavy (diesel range) and
oligomerised range of hydrocarbons. The rate of production
increased rapidly at the preliminary length of the reactor,
and the production rate decreased from X/L0 of 0.4.
In Figure 6(c), the production yields of heavy and
oligomerised range of hydrocarbons were greater than light
and middle range of hydrocarbons. With the current
operating conditions (Tin = 380 C, LHSV = 8 h1 and H2/
feed = 1500), the hydrocracking synthesis conducted the
Figure 5. The reactor wall, liquid and gas temperature proles triglyceride conversion towards biodiesel production
along the reactor. because of the high HC production yield.

Int. J. Energy Res. 2014; 38:16241634 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 1631
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A. A. Forghani et al. Analysis of a hydrocracking reactor for triglyceride conversion

Figure 6. (a) Concentration, (b) mole fraction and (c) yield of production for ve lumps of triglyceride, LC, MC, HC and OC.

Figure 7. (a) Mole fraction and (b) partial pressure of LC, MC, HC and OC in the gas phase (evaporation).

Evaporation or mass transfer of different lumps from the along the reactor, increased rapidly for the LC, MC and HC
liquid phase to gas phase is shown in Figure 7. At an inlet fractions. These levels of increase were higher in LC because
temperature of 380 C and pressure of 80 bar, evaporation of low vapour pressures of its components, in comparison
of different lumps was very low because of high pressure with other lumps. Also the OC has the lower evaporation rate
along the reactor. As shown in Figure 7(a), all lump evapora- because its components have higher vapour pressures.
tions were in order of 104, and most of the products were
coming out from the reactor in liquid form. As shown in
Figure 7, at the end of the reactor (X/L0 of 0.8 to 1), the max- 8. CONCLUSION
imum conversion was achieved in the reactor, and most of
the reactants converted to HC and OC, so the evaporation A three-phase non-isothermal heterogeneous model was
rate of OC and HC lumps were very low, but the evaporation considered to analyse a triglyceride hydrocracking reactor.
of LC was very high. From the X/L0 of 0.8 to the reactor en- In the hydrocracking reactor, triglyceride and hydrogen en-
trance, the evaporation rate, because of temperature increase tered the reactor counter-currently, and after reaction with

1632 Int. J. Energy Res. 2014; 38:16241634 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/er
Analysis of a hydrocracking reactor for triglyceride conversion A. A. Forghani et al.

the supported catalyst, four lumps of hydrocarbons were H2 = hydrogen

produced such as LC, MC, HC and OC. Two kinetic HC = heavy hydrocarbons
models of hydrocracking reactions, A1 and A7, were i = each lump index
applied in the modelling of the reactor. According to the in = inside
results, the A7 kinetic model was close to the reality, and L, l = liquid
the yield of major product lumps based on A7 the kinetics LC = light hydrocarbons
model had a good correlation with the average error of MC = middle hydrocarbons
12.53% in comparison with the experimental data. The OC = oligomerised products
temperature variations of liquid, solid and gas phases were out = outside
also investigated. The gas temperature increased linearly Tg = triglyceride
along the reactor because of the gas physical properties. w = wall
The liquid temperature increased rapidly to 470 C because
of low liquid ow-rate and rapid heat absorption at the
entrance of the reactor due to endothermic reactions. The
liquid temperature decreased with the same trend of wall ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
temperature prole as the triglyceride concentration
decreased along the reactor. The triglyceride conversion The rst author is grateful for the support of an Adelaide
of the modelled reactor was 82.54%, and most of the Scholarship International (ASI) from The University of
triglyceride converted to HC and OC indicates good Adelaide, and also the authors wish to acknowledge Emeritus
potential for biodiesel production. This modelling can be Prof. Keith King for his grateful support. Also this research
applied for scale-up design of biodiesel production using was supported under Australian Research Councils Linkage
a single-step hydrocracking process. Projects funding scheme (Project LP100200616) with
industry partner SQC Pty Ltd and the Australian Renewable
Energy Agency advanced biofuels investment readiness
programme funding agreement number Q00150.
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1634 Int. J. Energy Res. 2014; 38:16241634 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/er