Nanotechnology Applied to the Biodesulfurization of Fossil Fuels and Spent Caustic Streams

Nanotechnology Applied to the Biodesulfurization of Fossil Fuels and Spent Caustic Streams

Danai Montalvan-Sorrosa (National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico), Daniel de los Cobos-Vasconcelos (National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico) and Armando Gonzalez-Sanchez (National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9545-0.ch012
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The use of nanostructured materials in combination with desulfurizing microorganisms is a promising technique that would improve the desulfurization processes of gaseous fuels, oil, and some wastewater. Nanoparticles are highly versatile and tunable depending on the necessities of each particular contaminated media. The chapter shows the current technological options for the biodesulfurization of natural gas, oil and wastewater produced from the petroleum refining, where the application of nano-sized materials combined with desulfurizing microorganisms would improve the desulfurization capacities. In addition, advantages, disadvantages and opportunities of this hybrid technology are presented.
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Sulfur in Gaseous Fuels

The world’s energy requirements have strongly increased due to the growing industrialization, especially in emerging economies. Fossil fuels still represent the main energy source around the world. Among these various energy sources, gaseous fuels have been increasingly used because of their easier exploitation and their somewhat more environmentally friendly impact (i.e. natural gas). However, these gaseous fuels commonly contain significant concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and other sulfur species such as carbon disulfide (CS2), carbonyl sulfide (COS) and organic sulfides (see Table 1). On the other hand, non-fossil fuels used such as coal, oil, peat, wood, and other organic materials contain sulfur, which is released as SO2 after combustion. In combination with the humidity of the atmosphere, SO2 produce the recurrent problem of acid rain that can cause severe damage to ecosystems. Sulfur poisoning of chemical catalyzer is another frequent problem during cracking and refining of crude petroleum.

Table 1.
Typical compositions of various gaseous fuels
Composition (% v/v)
Gaseous FuelsOther S*H2SH2CO2CH4N2COHC**
Natural gas≈0.253.8–8.6≈0.32–1836–7154–58≈3.0
Distillery Biogas≈0.0031.2–2.5≈0.0422–2858–641.5–5
Refinery fuel gas≈0.034.5–7.5≈2011–15≈ 1.550–59≈18≈ 2
Coke oven gases≈0.030.3–4.8≈15.024–28≈ 50≈0.15≈10≈0.02
Coal gasification≈0.0170.6–2.0≈2115–265–26≈279-22≈0.6

(González-Sánchez & Revah, 2006).

*CS2, Mercaptans, and thiophene, **HC Hydrocarbons.

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