Kinetic modeling of ethane pyrolysis at high conversion

Chen Xu, Ahmed Sultan Al Shoaibi, Chenguang Wang, Hans Heinrich Carstensen, Anthony M. Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The primary objective of this study is to develop an improved first-principle-based mechanism that describes the molecular weight growth kinetics observed during ethane pyrolysis. A proper characterization of the kinetics of ethane pyrolysis is a prerequisite for any analysis of hydrocarbon pyrolysis and oxidation. Flow reactor experiments were performed with ∼50/50 ethane/nitrogen mixtures with temperatures ranging from 550 to 850 °C at an absolute pressure of ∼0.8 atm and a residence time of ∼5 s. These conditions result in ethane conversions ranging from virtually no reaction to ∼90%. Comparisons of predictions using our original mechanism to these data yielded very satisfactory results in terms of the temperature dependence of ethane conversion and prediction of the major products ethylene and hydrogen. However, there were discrepancies in some of the minor species concentrations that are involved in the molecular weight growth kinetics. We performed a series of CBS-QB3 analyses for the C 3H 7, C 4H 7, and C 4H 9 potential energy surfaces to better characterize the radical addition reactions that lead to molecular weight growth. We also extended a published C 6H 9 PES to include addition of vinyl to butadiene. The results were then used to calculate pressure-dependent rate constants for the multiple reaction pathways of these addition reactions. Inclusion of the unadjusted rate constants resulting from these analyses in the mechanism significantly improved the description of several of the species involved in molecular weight growth kinetics. We compare the predictions of this improved model to those obtained with a consensus model recently published as well as to ethane steam cracking data. We find that a particularly important reaction is that of vinyl addition to butadiene. Another important observation is that several radical addition reactions are partially equilibrated. Not only does this mean that reliable thermodynamic parameters are essential for an accurate model, but also that the reaction set describing molecular weight growth chemistry must include a final product that is sufficiently stable to shift the equilibrium toward this product despite the decrease in entropy that accompanies molecular weight growth. Another reaction, H addition to olefins, was found to inhibit molecular weight growth by leading to the production of a lower olefin plus methyl radicals.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)10470-10490
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number38
StatePublished - 29 Sep 2011


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