Refractometry in Oil Refining and the Petrochemical Industry: Sulfuric Acid Alkylation

Refractometers Used in Sulfuric Acid Alkylation

Motor fuel alkylation using sulfuric acid (H2SO4) or liquid hydrofluoric acid (HF) is one of the oldest catalytic processes used in petroleum refining. The purpose of the alkylation is to improve motor and aviation gasoline properties (higher octane) with up to 90 % lower emissions compared to conventional fuel usage.

The problem with HF is that the catalyst forms a hazardous air pollutant when released as a superheated liquid, while H2SO4 does not. Therefore nearly 90 % of all alky units built since 1990 have adopted the H2SO4 technology.

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