Field, Joseph H. Benfield Corporation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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The synthesis of hydrocarbons and, to a lesser extent, of aliphatic oxygenated compounds by the catalytic hydrogenation of carbon monoxide. The synthesis was discovered in 1923 by F. Fischer and H. Tropsch at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Coal Research in Mülheim, Germany. The reaction is highly exothermic, and the reactor must be designed for adequate heat removal to control the temperature and avoid catalyst deterioration and carbon formation. The sulfur content of the synthesis gas must be extremely low to avoid poisoning the catalyst. The first commercial plant was built in Germany in 1935 with cobalt catalyst, and at the start of World War II there were six plants in Germany producing more than 4,000,000 bbl (6,000,000 m3) per year of primary products. Iron catalysts later replaced the cobalt.
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