Separation of n-paraffins by selective adsorption

  • Ali M. Al-Damkhi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A study has been undertaken of the vapor-phase adsorptive separation of n-alkanes from Kuwait kerosene (Kuwait National Petroleum Company, heavy kerosene) using zeolite molecular sieves. Due to the shortage of information on the adsorption of multicomponent systems in the open literature, the present investigation was initiated to study the effect of feed flowrate, temperature, and zeolite particle size on the height of mass transfer zone (MTZ) and the dynamic capacity of the adsorbent for multicomponent n-alkanes adsorption on a fixed-bed of zeolite type-5A. The optimum operating conditions for separation of the n-alkanes has been identified so that the effluent would also be of marketable quality. The effect of multicycle adsorption-desorption stages on the dynamic behaviour of zeolite using steam as a desorbing agent has been studied and compared with n-pentane and n-hexane as desorbing agents. The separation process comprised one cycle of adsorption using a fixed-bed of zeolite type-5A. The bed was fed with vaporized kerosene until saturation had been achieved whereby the n-alkanes were adsorbed and the denormalized material eluted. The process of adsorption-desorption was carried out isobarically at one atmosphere. A mathematical model has been developed to predict the breakthrough time using the method of characteristics. The results were in a reasonable agreement with the experimental values. This model has also been utilized to develop the equilibrium isotherm. Optimum operating conditions were achieved at a feed flowrate of 33.33 x 10-9 m3/s, a temperature of 643 K, and a particle size of (1.0 - 2.0) x 10-3 m. This yielded an HMTZ value and a dynamic capacity of 0.206 m and 9.6S3 x 10-2 kg n-alkanes/kg of zeolite respectively. These data will serve as a basis for design of a commercial plant. The purity of liquid-paraffin product desorbed using steam was 83.24 wt%. The dynamic capacity was noticed to decrease sharply with the cycle number, without intermediate reactivation of zeolite, while it was kept unchanged by intermediate reactivation. Normal hexane was found to be the best desorbing agent, the efficiency of which was mounted to 88.2%.
Date of AwardJan 1986
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorG.V. Jeffreys (Supervisor), C.J. Mumford (Supervisor) & R.S. Al-Ameeri (Supervisor)


  • normal alkanes
  • adsorption
  • molecular sieve
  • normal paraffins
  • zeolite

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