Fischer–tropsch synthesis: Computational sensitivity modeling for series of cobalt catalysts

Harrison Williams, Muthu K. Gnanamani, Gary Jacobs, Wilson D. Shafer, David Coulliette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Nearly a century ago, Fischer and Tropsch discovered a means of synthesizing organic compounds ranging from C1 to C70 by reacting carbon monoxide and hydrogen on a catalyst. Fischer–Tropsch synthesis (FTS) is now known as a pseudo-polymerization process taking a mixture of CO as H2 (also known as syngas) to produce a vast array of hydrocarbons, along with various small amounts of oxygenated materials. Despite the decades spent studying this process, it is still considered a black-box reaction with a mechanism that is still under debate. This investigation sought to improve our understanding by taking data from a series of experimental Fischer–Tropsch synthesis runs to build a computational model. The experimental runs were completed in an isothermal continuous stirred-tank reactor, allowing for comparison across a series of completed catalyst tests. Similar catalytic recipes were chosen so that conditional comparisons of pressure, temperature, SV, and CO/H2 could be made. Further, results from the output of the reactor that included the deviations in product selectivity, especially that of methane and CO2, were considered. Cobalt was chosen for these exams for its industrial relevance and respectfully clean process as it does not intrinsically undergo the water–gas shift (WGS). The primary focus of this manuscript was to compare runs using cobalt-based catalysts that varied in two oxide catalyst supports. The results were obtained by creating two differential equations, one for H2 and one for CO, in terms of products or groups of products. These were analyzed using sensitivity analysis (SA) to determine the products or groups that impact the model the most. The results revealed a significant difference in sensitivity between the two catalyst–support combinations. When the model equations for H2 and CO were split, the results indicated that the CO equation was significantly more sensitive to CO2 production than the H2 equation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number857
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Cobalt
  • Fischer
  • Kinetics
  • Modeling
  • Tropsch synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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