Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory

A DOE Office of Science User Facility

This page lives in the old site. Check out our new site here.

Steam Reforming of Ethylene Glycol over MgAl2O4 Supported Rh, Ni, and Co Catalysts.


Steam reforming of ethylene glycol (EG) over MgAl2O4 supported metal (15 wt.% Ni, 5 wt.% Rh, and 15 wt.% Co) catalysts were investigated using combined experimental and theoretical methods. Compared to highly active Rh and Ni catalysts with 100% conversion, the steam reforming activity of EG over the Co catalyst is comparatively lower with only 42% conversion under the same reaction conditions (500˚C, 1 atm, 119,000 h-1, S/C=3.3 mol). However, CH4 selectivity over the Co catalyst is remarkably lower. For example, by varying the gas hour space velocity (GHSV) such that complete conversion is achieved for all the catalysts, CH4 selectivity for the Co catalyst is only 8%, which is much lower than the equilibrium CH4 selectivity of ~ 24% obtained for both the Rh and Ni catalysts. Further studies show that varying H2O concentration over the Co catalyst has a negligible effect on activity, thus indicating zero-order dependence on H2O. These experimental results suggest that the supported Co catalyst is a promising EG steam reforming catalyst for high hydrogen production. To gain mechanistic insight for rationalizing the lower CH4 selectivity observed for the Co catalyst, the initial decomposition reaction steps of ethylene glycol via C-O, O-H, C-H, and C-C bond scissions on the Rh(111), Ni(111) and Co(0001) surfaces were investigated using density functional theory (DFT) calculations. Despite the fact that the bond scission sequence in the EG decomposition on the three metal surfaces varies, which leads to different reaction intermediates, the lower CH4 selectivity over the Co catalyst, as compared to the Rh and Ni catalysts, is primarily due to the higher barrier for CH4 formation. The higher S/C ratio enhances the Co catalyst stability, which can be elucidated by the facile water dissociation and an alternative reaction path to remove the CH species as a coking precursor via the HCOH formation. This work was financially supported by the United States Department of Energy (DOE)’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and performed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). PNNL is a multi-program national laboratory operated for DOE by Battelle Memorial Institute. Computing time and advanced catalyst characterization use was granted by a user proposal at the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL). EMSL is a national scientific user facility sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research and located at PNNL.

Mei D, VM Lebarbier, R Xing, KO Albrecht, and RA Dagle.2015."Steam Reforming of Ethylene Glycol over MgAl2O4 Supported Rh, Ni, and Co Catalysts."ACS Catalysis 6(1):315-325. doi:10.1021/acscatal.5b01666
D Mei
VM Lebarbier
R Xing
KO Albrecht
RA Dagle