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Fischer–Tropsch Process

  1. Arno de Klerk

Published Online: 18 JAN 2013

DOI: 10.1002/0471238961.fiscdekl.a01

Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology

Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology

How to Cite

de Klerk, A. 2013. Fischer–Tropsch Process. Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. 1–20.

Author Information

  1. University of Alberta

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 JAN 2013

Chemistry Terms

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A Fischer–Tropsch process always forms part of a larger indirect liquefaction facility, which consists of three processing steps. The first step is to convert a carbon source, such as coal, natural gas, biomass, or organic waste, into synthesis gas (syngas). Syngas is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, and it is the feed material for a Fischer–Tropsch process, which is the second step in the indirect liquefaction process. Fischer–Tropsch synthesis is the catalytic polymerization and hydrogenation of CO, which produces a synthetic crude oil (syncrude). The syncrude is a multiphase mixture of hydrocarbons, oxygenates, and water. The third step is the refining of the syncrude to products that are traditionally produced from conventional crude oil, such as transportation fuels and petrochemicals. The current contribution deals only with the Fischer–Tropsch process; the generation of syngas and the refining of Fischer–Tropsch syncrude are not discussed in any detail. A Fischer–Tropsch process has three main elements: catalyst, reactor, and gas loop. Fischer–Tropsch catalysis is described to explain the relationship among the different catalyst types, operating conditions, and products. A description of the main syncrude types and their compositions is also provided. Fischer–Tropsch technologies are discussed, with an explanation of the relationship between catalyst and reactor, the tradeoffs involved in different catalyst–reactor combinations, as well as guidelines for technology selection. The role of the Fischer–Tropsch gas loop is outlined, with a discussion of the key elements of the gas loop and how they affect the overall performance of a Fischer–Tropsch process.


  • Fischer–Tropsch;
  • synthesis gas (syngas);
  • synthetic crude oil (syncrude);
  • indirect liquefaction;
  • coal-to-liquids;
  • gas-to-liquids;
  • biomass-to-liquids