Solid Waste Generated from Hydrocarbon Cracking Provides Sustainable Materials for Making Fired Brick

By Lu-Ming Chen and Mei-In Melissa Chou.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

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Fluid catalytic cracking, one of the crucial processes in oil refining, converts low value heavy hydrocarbons into high value and high yield petroleum products such as light distillates and liquefied petroleum gases. This process generates waste or spent catalyst that requires disposal. Currently, about 1,000 metric tons of spent equilibrium catalyst (S-E-CAT) are generated worldwide daily. The majority of this spent material is disposed of as landfill waste, which poses environmental risk and an economic burden to the producers and the public. Our study addresses ways to reduce this waste by creating a valued byproduct. Because the chemical composition of this waste is similar to that of components used to make fired construction bricks, we evaluated formulations, and fired and tested artificial bricks utilizing this waste. The chemical and some physical characteristics of S-E-CAT materials and the water absorption properties of fired bricks produced with variable amounts of S-E-CAT materials were previously reported (Chou et al. 2009). In this study, the particle size distribution, mineralogical and thermal property characteristics, and images of the S-E-CAT materials were analyzed. Also, the compressive strength tests, freeze-thaw tests, and thermal conductivity measurements were conducted on the final fired bricks. The results indicated that final fired bricks containing 10 wt-% to 30 wt-% of S-E-CAT had compressive strength greater than 3,000 psi and met the ASTM building brick specification for a severe weathering grade. Also, the bricks containing S-E-CAT had better heat insulation properties than conventional fired bricks. The results of this study and the previous study indicate that S-E-CAT material may be a promising raw material for a new valued and sustainable construction product, and its utilization will reduce landfill waste.

Keywords: Oil Refinery, Fluid Catalytic Cracking, Spent Equilibrium Catalyst, Solid Wastes, Fired Bricks

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.1-16. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.780MB).

Dr. Lu-Ming Chen

Ph.D. student, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences; , Illinois State Geological Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, USA

Lu-Ming Chen, advised by Dr. Mei-In Melissa Chou, earned his Ph.D. degree from Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences in 2012. He is also a LEED Accredited Professional in Operations and Maintenance (LEED AP O+M). With background in environmental engineering and sciences, his specialty is in environmental sustainability, mainly utilization of waste materials generated from different industry streams into sustainable materials. It covers physical and chemical analyses of materials, manufacturing of construction products, engineering properties testing, environmental assessment, and economic analysis. His research interests include, but are not limited to, environmental sustainability, energy-efficient building materials environmental chemistry, and life cycle analyses.

Mei-In Melissa Chou

Adjunct Professor, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences , Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Dr. Mei-In M. Chou earned her Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Michigan State University, under the advisor, Prof. R.H. Grubbs-2005 Chemistry Nobel Laureate. Since she joined the Survey in 1978, she has been the principal investigator of many projects in coal and geochemical investigations. Since 1998, she has led multiple projects in process development to utilize high volumes of solid coal combustion byproducts in value added applications. In 2001, she was awarded an adjunct professorship by the University of Illinois and started supporting/supervising graduate students. In addition, she has continuously lead state and federally funded projects in making high-quality construction products with coal combustion solid waste materials, mainly fly ash and bottom ash. In the past several years, her projects on using sustainable raw materials for making construction products were extended to include spent hydrocarbon cracking equilibrium catalysts and biodiesel filtration cakes.