100th Anniversary: Bergius Process

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  • Author: ChemViews
  • Published Date: 11 December 2013
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
thumbnail image: 100th Anniversary: Bergius Process

The Bergius process is a method for the production of liquid hydrocarbons, such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, for use as synthetic fuel. This method was developed by Friedrich Bergius and patented in 1913. The process involves the hydroliquefication of brown coal, also known as lignite, into crude oil.


The brown coal is ground into a fine powder and heated at 425–480 °C under 200–700 atm. pressure of hydrogen gas in the presence of a catalyst. Iron, molybdenum, and tin catalysts have all been used. The catalyst used initially was molydenum oxide in the presence of sulfuric acid but iron catalysts are the most common owing to their lower cost and higher availability.


In recognition of this work, Friedrich Bergius won the Nobel Prize in 1931 for contributions to the invention and development of chemical high pressure methods, together with Carl Bosch.


In 1914, Friedrich Bergius built an industrial plant for the Bergius process at a factory of Th. Goldschmidt AG, Essen, Germany, now known as Evonik Industries. Owing to World War I, production only began in 1919, when demand for fuel was declining. Bergius sold his patent to BASF, and before World War II several plants, with an annual capacity of 4 million tons of synthetic fuel, were built. These plants were extensively used during World War II to supply Germany with fuel and lubricants. There are no longer any plants operating the Bergius Process commercially.


Image © Marc Genovese
www.chemicalblacksmith.com


[1] Zerong Wang, Bergius Process, in Comprehensive Organic Name Reactions and Reagents, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., Hoboken, USA 2009, 397–340. DOI: 10.1002/9780470638859.conrr074

Friedrich Bergius is the answer to Guess the Chemist (24), which gave details about his life.

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