Ethanol dehydrogenation to ethyl acetate by using copper and copper chromite catalysts

In the recent years, the interest in the ethanol production from renewable natural sources, as a possible alternative energy vector, has strongly grown in the world. The low-cost ethanol availability has also favored the study of the production of different chemicals such as ethylene, ethyl ether, acetaldehyde and ethyl acetate starting from ethanol as raw material. In this paper, ethanol dehydrogenation to ethyl acetate, in one step reaction, has been studied by using three different commercial copper based catalysts. The reaction has been conducted in a conventional packed bed tubular reactor, by exploring a temperature range of 200–260 ?C and a pressure range of 10–30 bars. The best results have been found by using a commercial copper/copper chromite catalyst, supported on alumina and containing barium chromite as promoter, operating at 220–240 °C, 20 bars and 98 g h mol-1 of ethanol contact time. In these conditions, a conversion of 65% with a selectivity to ethyl acetate of 98–99% has been obtained. However, the effect of temperature, pressure and ethanol contact time on both conversion and selectivity to ethyl acetate has been investigated. Moreover, the best catalyst has also shown a good stability to deactivation. For these reasons, the behavior of this catalyst has been subjected to a deeper investigation. The obtained results have been discussed on the basis of a reliable reaction scheme and mechanism. At last, a simplified scheme of a possible process is reported.