Joint Centers of Excellence Program

Microwave-Enhanced Conversion of Crude Oil and Naphtha to High-Value Chemicals

Microwaves provide an alternative route to heating petrochemicals and catalysts. Fundamental differences in the mechanisms of power dissipation lead to unique properties such as selective, volumetric, fast and efficient heating. Exploiting the unique features of electromagnetic heating has led to enhanced conversions and ‘apparent’ shifts in equilibrium of many petrochemical processes. The aim of this project is to directly convert crude oil and naphtha to high-value chemicals in a single operational unit using microwaves. Employing 'designer' microwave catalysts and principles of microwave electric and magnetic heating, new approaches to the assisted conversion of crude and heavy oils are being developed in order to overcome major industrial challenges.

As a part of the petrochemical research centre, a high power resonant microwave facility (HPRMF) has been established. Here, using microwave heating, characterisation and modelling tools, electromagnetically-enhanced conversion of crude oil and naphtha to specific, targeted high-value chemicals is demonstrated. These activities are also accompanied by a developing technoeconomical assessment of emerging innovations in close collaboration with the Saudi Aramco “Oil To Chemicals” R&D team.