Hydrocracking (HDC) forms, after fluid catalytic cracking (FCC), the largest catalytic application of zeolite catalysts. The HDC catalyst market is estimated at around 300 million USD (2020). This ‘hydrogen addition’ process is completely different from the ‘carbon rejection’ method in FCC, and uses a bifunctional USY zeolite/metal catalyst and the co-feeding of hydrogen to achieve high-quality products. Hydrocracking converters are in strong demand since the catalyst and process can be tuned towards the increasingly specific and challenging feeds in order to meet the increasing demands on product specifications.

The targeted introduction of mesopores to facilitate access to the acidic sites within the zeolites has proven its value in hydrocracking. A hydrocracking catalyst based on a more accessible zeolite is able to attain increased conversion levels (particularly with heavy feeds) and increased output of valuable middle distillates, while boosting the overall capacity by significantly reducing the output of lights. In addition, these benefits can be combined with improved product specifications, reduced hydrogen consumption, and longer catalyst lifetime.

The game-changing results of Zeopore zeolites in hydrocracking are further elucidated in the Hydrocracking Application Note 'Superior hydrocracking performance through cost-effective mesoporous USY catalysts'.

Still, the benefits of mesoporous zeolites come only after several challenges have been resolved. Hydrocracking catalyst are finely balanced between acidic function (the faujasite zeolite), matrix components, and hydrogenation metals. Herein, the introduction of mesoporosity in the zeolite must  be executed in a controlled and tunable fashion, with the right amount and type of mesopores, suitable acidity levels, and surface properties.

The relatively high-silica content in USY zeolites used for HDC implies considerable synthetic challenges in order to achieve successful mesoporization. Ironically, although steam stabilized, the high-silica USY zeolites are easily amorphized during mesoporization, losing their valuable acidity and microporosity profiles. Often, the existing methods to preserve these intrinsic zeolitic properties involve the inclusion of costly and toxic organics in the mesoporization process.

Zeopore’s technologies provide a perfect solution in response to the specific challenges in hydrocracking. We have developed a platform of mesoporous USY zeolites of varying SiO2/Al2O3 ratios, tunable acidity and mesopore quantity and quality, with preserved microporosity. Importantly, all zeolites are manufactured in the absence of expensive and toxic ingredients.

Thanks to several intensive interactions with selected catalyst manufacturers, and facilitated by additional benefits on metal deposition and dispersion, Zeopore makes the multimillion dollar value of mesoporised HDC zeolites accessible to everyone. Depending on cracker size and feeds/products prices, we estimate our added value in this application to be above 15 million USD per cracker per year.