Hydrothermal Catalytic Conversion of Oleic Acid to Heptadecane over Ni/ZrO2: Article No. 100273

L. Cronmiller, James Crawford, Jing Zhang, Derek Vardon, Timothy Strathmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus Citations


There is growing interest in the substitution of expensive noble metal catalysts with low-cost earth-abundant metals in applications targeting biofuels production from waste organic feedstocks. Here, nickel (Ni) catalysts supported on zirconium dioxide (ZrO2), both with and without copper (Cu) as a co-metal, were tested in hydrothermal reactions of unsaturated and saturated C18 fatty acids as models for waste oil feedstocks. In contrast to recent reports, this study showed no enhancement of nickel's activity for fatty acid conversion to alkane products when Cu was present. Ni/ZrO2 prepared by metal coprecipitation methods converted 100% of oleic acid with 25% selectivity to heptadecane after 5 h of reaction at 350 degrees C using methanol as a hydrogen donor source, increasing to 41% heptadecane after 20 h. Lower yields were observed with catalysts prepared by wet impregnation and using alternative hydrogen donor sources (glycerol, formic acid). Greater selectivity to heptadecane was also observed at higher temperatures (370 degrees C) and when the initial fatty acid had greater saturation. Longer term exposure to hydrothermal media led to metal sintering and catalyst deactivation. Findings support a path forward to the development of earth-abundant metal catalysts for the upgrading of waste organic feedstocks.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials Advances
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-87064


  • drop-in fuel
  • earth abundant metals
  • linoleic acid
  • subcritical
  • waste valorization


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