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One-step conversion of crude oil to light olefins using a multi-zone reactor


With the demand for gasoline and diesel expected to decline in the near future, crude-to-chemicals technologies have the potential to become the most important processes in the petrochemical industry. This trend has triggered intense research to maximize the production of light olefins and aromatics at the expense of fuels, which calls for disruptive processes able to transform crude oil to chemicals in an efficient and environmentally friendly way. Here we propose a catalytic reactor concept consisting of a multi-zone fluidized bed that is able to perform several refining steps in a single reactor vessel. This configuration allows for in situ catalyst stripping and regeneration, while the incorporation of silicon carbide in the catalyst confers it with improved physical, mechanical and heat-transport properties. As a result, this reactor–catalyst combination has shown stable conversion of untreated Arabian Light crude into light olefins with yields per pass of over 30 wt% with a minimum production of dry gas.

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Fig. 1: Catalytic performance of the MZFB reactor.
Fig. 2: Coke quantification by TGA of the spent catalyst.
Fig. 3: Identification of the post-reacted zeolite-trapped species.
Fig. 4: Catalytic performance of ACM-101 in the cracking of AL crude.
Fig. 5: Analysis of liquid products.

Data availability

All data presented in this study are included in this published manuscript and its Supplementary Information or are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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We acknowledge Saudi Aramco for financial support. Y. Saih, S. Telalovic and L. E. Gevers are gratefully acknowledged for technical support and S. Ramirez Cherbuy for the artwork design.

Author information




J.G. conceived, designed and supervised the project together with M.A. and A.R.-G. All catalytic assessment experiments and data interpretation were carried out by M.A. and A.R.-G. Synthesis and characterization of the ACM-101 catalyst formulation was the responsibility of T.S. and A.D. The ssNMR analysis and data interpretation was performed by A.D.C. and E.A.-H. Thermogravimetric analysis was performed by J.V., M.A., A.R.-G. and I.H. SIMDIS analysis of liquid products was performed by J.V., A.R.-G. and M.A. FT-ICR MS and GC-MS analyses were performed by I.H. and W.Z. CFD simulations were performed by S.R.K. and supervised by P.C. All kinetics simulations for AL/oxygen auto-ignition were the responsibility of S.M.S. Participation in the discussion of results and industrial applicability was contributed by A.B.S., O.S.A., I.M.-O. and W.X. The manuscript was drafted by M.A., A.R.-G. and J.G. with input from all the authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jorge Gascon.

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Competing interests

Two patent applications (WO2020109885(A1) and provisional application number PCT/IB2020/057120) have been filed by the authors covering different aspects of this work.

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Peer review information Nature Catalysis thanks Guang Cao, Kevin M. Van Geem and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary methods, discussion, Figs. 1–14, Tables 1–6 and refs. 1–35.

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Alabdullah, M., Rodriguez-Gomez, A., Shoinkhorova, T. et al. One-step conversion of crude oil to light olefins using a multi-zone reactor. Nat Catal 4, 233–241 (2021).

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