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US005202517A
United States Patent [19] [11] Patent Number: 5,202,517
Minet et a1. [45] Date of Patent: Apr. 13, 1993

[54] PROCESS FOR PRODUCTION OF Pujado, and Anderson, Energy Progress, (vol. 6, No. 3),
ETHYLENE FROM ETHANE pp. 171-176, Sep. 1986.
The Dehydrogenation of Ethane over Chromium Cat
[75] Inventors: Ronald G. Minet, South Pasadena; alysts, Lugo and Lunsford, Journal of Catalysis, 91, pp.
Theodore T. Tsotsis, Huntington
Beach; Althea M. Champagnie, Los 155-166 (1985).
Angeles, all of Calif. Primary Examiner-Asok Pal
[73] Assignee: Medalert Incorporated, South Attorney, Agent, or Firm-William W. Hae?iger
Pasadena, Calif. [57] ABSTRACT
[21] Appl. No.: 427,517 An apparatus and system for the dehydrogenation of
ethane to produce ethylene and hydrogen through the
[22] Filed: Oct. 27, 1989 use of a catalytic ceramic membrane having selective
[51] Int. Cl.5 ............................................ .. C07C 5/333 permeability, thus permitting separation of hydrogen
[52] US. Cl. .................................. .. 585/655; 585/633; from the reaction zone which causes further dehydro
585/636; 585/660; 585/920; 585/921; 585/954 genation of ethane, the catalytic ceramic membrane
[58] Field of Search ............. .. 585/633, 636, 655, 660, being in a cylindrical form which has been treated to
585/920, 921, 954 have a metallic catalyst of suitable metal, such as plati
num, palladium or chromium, deposited on the surface
[56] References Cited adjacent to the reaction zone. The catalytic ceramic
U.S. PATENT DOCUMENTS membrane tube is enclosed within an alloy tube of suit
3,290,406 12/1956 Pfefferle ............................ .. 585/954
able composition to permit heating to the temperature
4,271,730 2/1981 Eastman. range of 300 to 650 C. The annulus surrounding the
4,327,238 4/1982 Eastman . ceramic membrane tube may be ?lled with a pelleted
4,791,079 12/1988 Hazbun . catalyst, thus causing the dehydrogenation reaction to
take place within this annular zone, but which will be
FOREIGN PATENT DOCUMENTS accelerated by the permeation of hydrogen out of the
614611 2/1961 Canada .............................. .. 585/954 zone through the ceramic catalytic membrane. The
2201159 8/1988 United Kingdom . reactor is connected to a recovery system which per
mits separation of pure ethylene and unconverted eth
OTHER PUBLICATIONS
ane. A steady stream of P120 or argon continuously
Chemical Abstracts, vol. 109, No. 212827u, Japanese sweeps away the H2 coming out through the selective
Application. membrane, thereby further facilitating the conversion
Chemical Abstracts, vol. 110, No. 137460j, Japanese process.
Application.
Ole?ex: C2-C5 Dehydrogenation Updated, Vora, 7 Claims, 5 Drawing Sheets

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US. Patent Apr. 13, 1993 Sheet 1 of 5 5,202,517

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US. Patent Apr. 13, 1993 Sheet 3 of 5 5,202,517

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US. Patent Apr. 13, 1993 Sheet 5 of 5 5,202,517

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5,202,517 2
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lene exit gas stream, at relatively moderate tempera
PROCESS FOR PRODUCTION OF E'I'HYLENE tures.
FROM ETHANE It has been discovered that a particular process and
apparatus employing a catalytic ceramic membrane
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 5 reactor can be utilized to carry out the dehydrogenation
of ethane to produce enhanced ethylene yields (and
This invention relates generally to production of hydrogen) in a very unique and economic manner. To
ethylene, and more particularly, to high yield process our knowledge, no prior catalytic processes have
and apparatus for conversion of ethane to ethylene. proven to be industrially suf?ciently practical because
Ethylene is one of the most important building block of equilibrium limitations, temperature requirements
petrochemicals produced in the United States and the and potential fouling (including coking) problems. An
world. It is usually produced by thermally cracking equilibrium diagram for the reaction
hydrocarbon feedstocks ranging from ethane to heavy
gas oils. There are other production techniques under C1H6<->C2H4+H2 (l)
investigation for producing ethylene using catalytic
systems, auto-catalytic with chlorine and oxygen, and at atmospheric pressure is shown in FIG. 1. It can be
various combinations of such processes. seen that very high temperatures, above 800 C., are
The most economically viable process currently in required to raise the equilibrium conversion of ethylene
industrial use is the pyrolysis of ethane, or ethane/pro above 70%. At these temperatures, there is considerable
pane mixtures, or light hydrocarbon liquids in the boil production of unwanted by-products and coke because
ing range of lOO-l50 F. This process is usually carried of thermal cracking reactions.
out in a high temperature pyrolysis furnace where According to the process of the present invention, the
steam and hydrocarbons are preheated to 300 to 400 steps of dehydrogenating ethane to produce ethylene,
C., and then passed through a cracking coil made from include:
very high alloy CrNi steel, where the combined stream 25 a) providing a generally tubular, highly porous,
is heated to 700-900 C. The typical yield obtained asymmetric, ceramic membrane, and providing a heated
from such a process treating ethane is as shown in Table zone in a container into which the membrane is re
l. The overall conversion of ethane is limited to 55-60 ceived,
weight percent due to equilibrium and coking consider b) the membrane having been treated with a catalyti
cally active metallic substance so as to create an in
ations and temperature limitations of the metal reactor
tube. The unconverted ethane is typically recovered tramembrane catalytic pro?le,
c) and passing a stream of ethane carrying hydrogen
and recycled to permit an overall ultimate conversion in the range of 0.1 to 10% by volume into contact with
of ethane to ethylene in the range of 70-82 weight per the treated membrane, at a selected moderate tempera
cent. The by-products produced, as shown in Table 1 ture, and in such manner as to cause hydrogen diffusion
below, are hydrogen, methane, propylene, and heavier through the membrane faster than ethane and ethylene,
compounds, all of which require separation from the d) whereby the dehydrogenation reaction, ethane to
ethylene product which is usually required to be 99 + % ethylene, proceeds relatively rapidly, to produce hy
pure for use in a commercial process. drogen that passes through the membrane.
TABLE 1 As will be seen, the process proceeds at moderately
COMPARlSON OF PRODUCT YlELDS IN ETHANE elevated temperatures, between 400 and 600 C. The
CRACKING PILOT VERSUS INDUSTRIAL UNIT ceramic membrane is characterized by relative perme
wt % Pilot Plant Industrial abilities for H2, C2H6 and C2H4, which are about 3.5,
Hz 3.71 3.71
0.9, and 1.0, respectively, and the process includes the
CO/COZ 0.26 45 steps of removing H2 at one side of the membrane, and
CH4 2.99 3.35 removing C2H6 and CZH4 at the other side of the mem
Czl-lz 0.20 brane. Also, catalytic pellets containing palladium, plat
C2114 48.7 48.68 inum or chromium may be employed in the zone at the
C21-l5 39.0 39.27
C3H6 1.05 1.07 inlet side of the membrane (i.e., from which H2 pro
C3113 0.21 ceeds through the membrane) to enhance the catalytic
C4116 0.99 1.12 conversion of C2H4 to C2H5, and such catalyst is also
C4113 0.21 carried by the porous membrane, as will appear.
C4H10 0.3 Apparatus to effect the conversion typically includes:
C5 1.85 1.6
Pressure atm. abs. 1.55 1.9 a) a generally tubular, highly porous, ceramic mem
Steam dilution kg/kg 0.4 0.4 55 brane, and container for the membrane and forming a
Outlet temp C. . 835. heated zone into which it is received, the membrane
Conversion % 59.1 59.87 having been treated with a catalytically active metallic
substance so as to create an intramembrane catalytic
There is need for an improved process providing pro?le,
signi?cantly higher, or enhanced, ethylene yields. 60 b) and means for passing a stream of ethane carrying
hydrogen in the range of 0.1 to 10% by volume into
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION contact with the treated membrane, at elevated temper
It is a major object of the invention to provide ature, and in such manner as to cause hydrogen diffu
method and apparatus meeting the above need. In par sion through the membrane faster than ethane and eth
ticular, it is a major object to provide a signi?cantly 65 ylene,
improved process characterized by ethane to ethylene c) whereby the dehydrogenation reaction, ethane to
conversion levels equivalent to two to ?ve times ther ethylene, proceeds relatively rapidly, to produce hy
modynamic equilibrium for ethylene in an ethane-ethy drogen that passes through the membrane.
5,202,517 4
3
These and other objects and advantages of the inven TABLE 2
tion, as well as the details of an illustrative embodiment, ETHANE CONVERSION IN A
will be more fully understood from the following speci CERAMIC MEMBRANE REACTOR
VS;
?cation and drawings, in which: EQUILIBRIUM CONVERSION
AP = 10 PSIG, NO SWEEP GAS
DRAWING DESCRIPTION E'I'HANE CONVERSION
FIG. 1 is a graph showing equilibrium conversion of Temperature Ceramic Membrane Equilibrium
C. Reactor Conversion
ethane to ethylene vs. temperature;
400 6.2 1.0
FIG. 2 is a ?ow diagram; 450 8.8 1.8
FIG. 3 is a graph showing increased yield of ethylene 476 10.0 2.5
500 12.8 2.9
when using a porous ceramic reactor; 550 33.2 10.0
FIG. 4 is a section taken through the reactor appara 550 33.9 10.0
15 600 40.6 24.8
tus;
'HydrocarbonzI-Iydrogmzlne? Feed Input Mole Ratios in the range of 1:1:5 to
FIG. 5 shows use of multiple reactors, in accordance 1:1:10.
with the invention; and
FIG. 6 is like FIG. 4, but also showing flow controls. With the use of longer residence times, increased
catalyst surface and somewhat higher temperatures,
DETAILED DESCRIPTION 90% to 95% conversion of ethane to ethylene is obtain
In the process of the present invention, a reactor 10, able without the production of signi?cant quantities of
as seen in FIGS. 2 and 4, employs a tubular, highly unwanted by-products, and without signi?cant build up
of coke, or other foulants, on the catalyst.
porous asymmetric ceramic membrane 11 treated with a Usable ceramic membranes are typically tubular and
catalytically~active substance, such as platinum, or asymmetric, consisting of a macroporous support layer
other suitable metal, such as palladium or chromium, so on which one or several microporous catalyst layers are
as to create an optimal intramembrane catalytic pro?le. deposited. One typical membrane consists of gamma
A stream 12 of ethane, carrying hydrogen in the range alumina membrane on alpha-alumina support material.
of 0.l%10% by volume and steam, if desired, is passed 30 The required relative permeabilities for
adjacent to the ceramic membrane reactor which typi H1/C2H6/C2H4 are in the range of, or about,
3.5/0.9/ 1.0 with at least a 90% Knudsen ?ow compo
cally takes the form of a tube into the interior 11a of nent. The catalytic metal is impregnated in the mem
which the stream 12 is passed. The membrane reactor is brane according to a predetermined pro?le which de
shown as enclosed in a heated metal tube 13, the whole pends upon (i) the membrane structure, (ii) the intrinsic
assembly being maintained at 400-600 C., as by an catalytic activity, (iii) temperature and pressure and
electrical heater 14, or other means. The hydrogen ?ow conditions, and (iv) the speci?c metallic catalyst,
produced by the dehydrogenation of ethane diffuses and is deposited on the surface facing the reaction zone,
transversely through the reactor membrane wall faster indicated at 19. The rapid diffusion of product hydro
gen through the ceramic membrane causes the further
than ethane and ethylene, causing the dehydrogenation dehydrogenation of ethane to occur so that the reaction
reaction ethane-to-ethylene to proceed rapidly to give will move to _ satisfy the equilibrium relationship by
high conversion and yields far beyond the normal ther producing more hydrogen (and consequently more
modynamic equilibrium, at process temperature and ethylene). Hz is removed from the zone at one side of
pressure. Pressure of the entering stream within interior 45 the membrane, and ~C2H4 and C2H6 are removed from
space 11a is typically between 20 and 30 psi, and the the zone at the opposite side of the membrane.
As shown in FIG. 2, the membrane reactor 11 is
pressure at the outer side of the membrane is kept at
encased in a heating system 14, including a metal con
atmospheric pressure, i.e., at or near l4.7 psi. tainer 13. The tubular reactor has catalyst impregnated
Depletion of hydrogen from the immediate reaction on its inner surface. The temperature of the ceramic
zone favors additional production of hydrogen, and tube 11, is measured by (cement-on) thermocouples
consequently enhanced production of ethylene, i.e., 20a and 20b. Flow to the reactor consists of ethane
beyond that produced in conventional reactor con?gu ?owing from tank 21 through ?ow controller 22 and
rations, since removal of hydrogen from the reaction valve 23 into the reactor. At the inlet point 24, the
ethane stream is mixed with a sweep gas from tank 25
zone requires more hydrogen to be produced to satisfy consisting of argon and in addition, a small stream of
the equilibrium according to the equilibrium constant hydrogen from tank 26 to amount to approximately
equation: 0.1% to 10% of the ?ow of ethane entering the mem
brane reactor. Tank 27 comprises an additional source
_ (02m) - an) (2)
60 of argon which is used to sweep the annulus 11b sur
KP ' (C2116) rounding the membrane reactor. A differential pressure
of 10 to 50 psi is maintained between the inside of the
ceramic membrane reactor and the annulus. Note ?ow
Conversion levels equivalent to two to ?ve times controller 28 and valve 29 in series with line 30; flow
normal thermodynamic equilibrium for ethylene in the controller 31 and valve 32 in series with line 33; and
combined exit gas at temperatures of 500 to 600 C. flow controller 34 and valve 35 in series with line 36.
have been obtained. Typical results are shown in Table As the streams ?ow through the membrane reactor,
2 when using apparatus as shown in FIG. 2. the ethane is converted to ethylene and hydrogen at the
5,202,517
5 6
catalytic surface inside the edge of the membrane reac placed into the reactor body. A 60% argon, 40% oxy
tor tube. Hydrogen diffuses through the membrane wall gen mixture is passed through the reactor over the cata
at a rate approximately 3% to 4 times the diffusing ?ow lyst at 130 C. overnight. Finally, hydrogen is passed
rate of ethylene or ethane. This causes the reaction zone over the catalyst at 350 C. for 12 hours.
to be depleted of hydrogen and the thermodynamic Referring again to the FIG. 4, the inlet gas consists of
equilibrium reaction equation causes additional ethane ethane plus 0.1% to 10% hydrogen by volume, entering
to be dehydrogenated to produce hydrogen to balance through port 50, then passing down through the reac~
the reaction coefficient. The stream 36 leaving the tion tube enclosure 39 in an annular vessel or container
membrane reactor then flows out of the reactor through 40 surrounding the ceramic membrane. The space 41
a bubbling ?ow meter indicated at 37. A sample is taken between the container 40 and the membrane 39 may be
from the sample port 38, to ?ow to a mass spectrometer. ?lled with pelleted catalyst 62 (palladium, alumina or
Similarly, the stream 39 passing through the annulus silica pellets impregnated with platinum, or (r2O3)) to
flows through a bubbling flow meter indicated at 40. A provide a sufficient catalytic residence time for the
sample is also taken at the sample port 41, to flow to a conversion of ethane to ethylene. Hydrogen formed in
mass spectrometer. the reaction zone diffuses rapidly through the ceramic
The results obtained are summarized in Table 2 and in membrane into the central zone 55 within the tube, and
FIG. 3, both of which show the conversion levels at is continuously withdrawn at 56 via exit tube 57. Addi
tained at temperatures in the range of 450 to 650 C.
Note that the ethane conversion level achieved in the . tional hydrogen, if required for balancing purposes, is
combined gas streams leaving the reactor ranges from 20 introduced through connection 58 into the ceramic tube
approximately six times to two times the anticipated central zone 41. The bottom of the ceramic membrane
equilibrium values at the reaction zone temperatures for tube is closed by a plate 60 which can be either porous
thermodynamic considerations and the equilibrium or nonporous, depending upon the mode of operation
equation. The described apparatus was used to obtain desired. A second bottom plate 61 provides permeable
the data given herein. Projections of yields for the dif 25
support for the pelleted catalyst 62 (if used) ?lling the
ferent temperatures of industrial operations show that annulus between the ceramic membrane tube and the
use of appropriate catalyst areas and reactor volumes reactor enclosure tube. The annulus product gases,
result in the conversion of ethane in a single pass or which are depleted in hydrogen and contain most of the
multiple pass system of the order of 90% to 95% to ethylene product, leave through the reactor outlet 63.
ethylene. Such conversion levels are attainable with a 30 Hydrogen and some ethylene, together with some eth
minimum production of by-products other than hydro ane, leave through the central outlet tube 56. The entire
gen. This enables a high degree of economic advantage assembly is heated by the radiant wall 42 of the furnace.
to the present system, for production of ethylene. The ceramic material of the tube 39 consists for example
An embodiment of the design for a commercial scale of a gamma alumina membrane on an alpha-alumina
system is shown in FIG. 4. The ceramic membrane 39 is 35 support.
located within an alloy tube 40. The entire system is The described apparatus meets several important
enclosed within a ?ame-heated furnace 38 capable of design requirements. The ceramic tube is supported by
driving the temperature within the reactor to the de a plate 67 at the top of the reactor and is mounted in a
sired level of 400 to 650 C. The level of temperature is vertical position, permitting free thermal expansion and
selected to cause the rate of reaction to reach a reason contraction, and thus freedom from mechanical stress
able level, and thus permit economic limits on the size brought about by differential expansion between the
of the reactor necessary for reasonable conversion lev ceramic tube in the center and the metallic alloy tube 40
els and reasonable throughputs. enclosing the catalyst and the ceramic tube. In practice,
In a typical design, the external tube 40 is a 4-inch to a battery of such parallel, vertical tubes 40 is mounted
6-foot diameter stainless steel enclosure, whereas the within an overall furnace enclosure 70 permitting an
membrane reactor 39, located within the tube, is ap economic design of the type illustrated in FIG. 5. As an
proximately 1 inch to 4 feet in diameter. The overall example, a furnace containing a battery of twenty verti
length of the ceramic membrane tube is of the order of cal tubes 40 permits the production of 10,000 tons per
3 feet to 10 feet. The ceramic membrane tube is of a year of ethylene from ethane at a conversion level of
composition as described below, as in Table 5. better than 95%, and with the production of only hy
TABLE 5 drogen gas as a by-product, with a minimum amount of
Material Pore Dram eter Thickness
higher hydrocarbon materials to separate.
In carrying out the reaction, differential pressure is
Layer 1 gamma alumina 40 angstroms 5 microns maintained between the entering stream of ethane and
Layer 2 alpha alumina 0.2 microns 30 microns
Layer 3 alpha alumina 0.8 microns 50 microns 55 hydrogen and the exit stream, or permeate, leaving the
Support alpha alumina 10 to 15 microns 1.5 to 2.0 inside of the catalytic membrane of the ceramic mem
millimeters brane material, by use of appropriate control instrumen
tation. This is illustrated in FIG. 6, wherein the ?ow of
Metallic catalytic material is impregnated on the ex the inlet feed stream at 50 is controlled by a flow re
ternal surface of the ceramic membrane tube and con 60 corder controller 73, resetting a differential pressure
sists of a suitable impregnation of platinum, palladium, device 730. and the exiting ?ows at 74 and 75 are main
or other metal, to give a concentration of the order of tained at differential pressures with respect to the inlet
5% to 10% by weight of the surface material. The ?ow by means of additional pressure-controlling de
method for the preparation of the catalytic impregna vices 76 and 76a, and 77 and 77a. Differential pressure
tion is as follows: The ceramic membrane tube is wet 65 across the membrane is maintained at between 10 and 50
impregnated with chloroplatinic acid solution (Alfa ps1.
products, Johnson Matthey) diluted to 5-15 weight This type of reactor leads to a typical overall material
percent. The tube is dried overnight and subsequently balance as shown in Table 3 as follows.
5,202,517 8
salt that the conversion of ethane to ethylene ex
TABLE 3
ceeds the normal thermodynamic equilibrium
MATERIAL BALANCE FOR
CATALYTIC CERAMIC MEMBRANE REACTOR
value for the temperature and pressure of the reac
Feed Product Permeate tor without removal of hydrogen from the reaction
mol/hr mol/hr mol/h zone,
Ethane 100 5 5 e) the membrane characterized as having relative
Ethylene 85 5 permeabilities for H2, C2H6 and C2H4 of at least 3.5,
Hydrogen 5 I0 85 0.9, and 10, respectively, and that are within 90%
105 100 95 of Knudsen ?ow component diffusivities,
10 f) controlling the ?ow of said inlet and outlet streams
The 100 moles per hour of ethane entering the system to maintain a differential pressure between said
is converted into 90 moles per hour of ethylene. Of the inlet ethane stream, and said outlet hydrogen
90 moles per hour of ethylene, 85 moles per hour appear stream of between 10 and 100 psi,
in the product gas along with 5 moles per hour of un g) and maintaining said container at said elevated
converted ethane and typically, 10 moles per hour of temperature and radiating heat from said container
hydrogen. The exit gas, which is rich in hydrogen, toward said reaction zone to maintain said elevated
contains 85 moles per hour of hydrogen and 5 moles per temperature,
hour of ethylene plus 5 moles per hour of ethane. This h) and providing a pelleted catalyst material adjacent
type of composition can be readily handled in a simple to the side of the membrane to which said stream of
separation system utilizing an expander-compressor ethane is passed,
tandem followed by an appropriately designed distilla i) said container being metallic and substantially tubu
tion column. The type of separation system employed is lar, and including the initial step of removing an
less complicated than that used in a conventional ther ethylene-containing gas stream from the container,
mal cracking plant, because the product gas contains so j) and employing argon or steam to sweep H2 away
few components and essentially zero unwanted heavy 25
from said opposite side of the membrane, and em
by-product materials. Hydrogen produced in the system
is available for export to other uses and for recycle to ploying argon or steam to mix with CZH6 fed to
the reactor to maintain the appropriate hydrogen bal said one side of the membrane.
ance. The presence of hydrogen in the reactor feed 2. The process of claim 1 including the initial step of
system is very important to maintain the catalyst at a 30 removing an ethylene-containing gas stream from the
high level of activity, and suppresses the formation of container.
carbon and coke on the surface of the catalyst (which 3. The process of claim 1 including providing multi
would otherwise shorten its normal operating life). ple individual ceramic membrane reactors in spaced
As an alternate to the expander/compressor system, a relation, each constructed and operating as in claim 1,
molecular sieve or other adsorbent separation system 35 to thereby form a vertical tubular system of reactors to
can be used for the recovery of pure ethylene. The permit unrestricted thermal and mechanical expan
above design considerations enable a comparison of sion/contraction of the individual ceramic membrane
economics for the production of ethylene from ethane reactors.
using a) the herein described catalytic ceramic mem 4. The process of claim 3 including arranging individ
brane process, as against, b) conventional thermal 40 ual of said reactors in a furnace in a battery of two or
cracking processes. more reactors.
A typical ceramic reactor has cylindrical membrane 5. The process of claim 3 wherein the product ethyl
wall thickness of about 5 microns on a 1.5-2 millimeter
ene is separated from ethane and hydrogen in said sys
thick support layer. tem of reactors followed by an adsorption separation
We claim: 45 system or low temperature distillation to produce an
1. The process for dehydrogenating ethane to pro ethylene product which is at least 85% pure.
duce ethylene, that includes 6. The process for dehydrogenating a mixture of
a) providing a generally tubular, highly porous, ethane and propane to produce a mixture of ethylene
asymmetric, ceramic membrane, and providing a and propylene that includes
heated reaction zone in a container into which the 50 a) providing a generally tubular, highly porous,
membrane is received, asymmetric, ceramic membrane, and providing a
b) said membrane having been impregnated with a heated reaction zone in a container into which the
catalytically active metallic substance so as to cre
membrane is received, -
ate an intramembrane catalytic pro?le, with pore
diameters less than 100 A, 55 b) said membrane having been-impregnated with a
catalytically active metallic substance so as to cre
c) and passing an inlet stream of ethane carrying
hydrogen in the range of 0.1% to 20% by volume ate an intramembrane catalytic pro?le, with pore
into contact with the treated membrane, at one side diameters less than 100 A,
thereof at elevated temperature between 300 and c) and passing an inlet stream of ethane and propane,
800 C. and in such manner as to cause hydrogen carrying hydrogen in the range of 1.0% to 20% by
diffusion through the membrane to the opposite volume, into contact with the treated membrane, at
side thereof faster than ethane and ethylene, and one side thereof at elevated temperature between
removing an outlet stream of hydrogen from said 300 and 800 C. and in such manner as to cause
opposite side of the membrane, and removing an hydrogen diffusion through the membrane to the
outlet stream of ethylene from said one side of the 65 opposite side thereof faster than ethane, ethylene,
membrane, propane, and propylene, and removing an outlet
d) whereby the dehydrogenation reaction, ethane to stream of hydrogen from said opposite side of the
ethylene, proceeds relatively rapidly, with the re membrane, and removing an outlet stream of ethyl
5,202,517 10
9
ene and propylene from said one side of the mem c) and passing an inlet stream of said alkane or mix
brane, ture of alkanes, carrying hydrogen in the range of
(1) whereby the dehydrogenation reactions, ethane to 0.1% to 20% by volume, into contact with the
ethylene, and propane to propylene proceed rela-_ treated membrane, at one side thereof at elevated
tively rapidly, to produce hydrogen that passes S temperature between 300 and 800 C., and in such
through the membrane, with the result that the manner as to cause hydrogen diffusion through the
conversions of ethane to ethylene and propane to membrane to the opposite side thereof faster than
propylene exceed the normal thermodynamic equi alkane, alkene, or said mixture of alkanes or al
librium values for the temperature and pressure of kenes, and removing an outlet stream of hydrogen
the reactor without removal of hydrogen with the 0 from said opposite side of the membrane, and re
moving an outlet stream of alkene or a mixture of
reaction zone, alkenes from said one side of the membrane,
e) the membrane characterized as having relative d) whereby the dehydrogenation reactions, alkane to
permeabilities for H2, ethane, ethylene, propane, alkene, or said mixture of alkanes to said mixture of
and propylene that are within 90% of Knudsen l5 alkenes, proceeds relatively rapidly, to produce
?ow component diffusivities, hydrogen that passes through the membrane, with
f) controlling the ?ow of said inlet and outlet streams the result that the conversions of alkane to alkene,
to maintain a differential pressure between said or mixture of alkanes to mixture of alkenes, exceed
inlet ethane and propane stream, and said outlet the normal thermodynamic equilibrium value for
hydrogen stream, of between 10 and 100 psi, the temperature and pressure of the reactor with
g) maintaining said container at said elevated temper out removal of hydrogen from the reaction zone,
ature and radiating heat from said container toward e) the membrane characterized as having relative
said reaction zone to maintain said elevated tem permeabilities for H2, alkane, alkene, mixture of
perature, alkanes and mixture of alkenes that are within 90%
h) providing a pelleted catalyst material adjacent to 25 of Knudsen flow component diffusivities,
the side of the membrane to which said inlet stream f) controlling the ?ow of said inlet and outlet streams
of ethane and propane is passed, to maintain a differential pressure between said
i) said container being metallic and substantially tubu inlet stream of alkane or mixture of alkanes, and
lar, and including the initial step of removing an said outlet hydrogen stream, of between 10 and 100
ethylene-containing gas stream from the container, 30 ps1,
j) and employing argon or steam to sweep H2 away g) maintaining said container at said elevated temper
from said opposite side of the membrane, and em ature and radiating heat from said container toward
ploying argon or steam to mix with ethane and said reaction zone to maintain said elevated tem
propane fed to said one side of the membrane. perature,
7. The process of dehydrogenating an alkane or a 35 h) providing a pelleted catalyst material adjacent to
mixture of alkanes to produce alkene or a mixture of the side of the membrane to which said inlet stream
alkenes, that includes of said alkane or mixture of alkenes is passed,
a) providing a generally tubular, highly porous, i) said container being metallic and substantially tubu
asymmetric, ceramic membrane, and providing a lar, and including the initial step of removing an
heated reaction zone in a container into which the 40 ethylene-containing gas stream from the container,
membrane is received, j) and employing argon or steam to sweep H2 away
b) said membrane having been impregnated with a from said opposite side of the membrane, and em
catalytically active metallic substance so as to cre ploying argon or steam to mix with alkane fed to
ate an intramembrane catalytic pro?le, with pore said one side of the membrane.
' t t t 0 t
diameters less than 100 A, 45

55

65

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