Hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) of guaiacol over Ni metal supported on zeolites (H-Beta and H-ZSM-5) with different Si/Al ratios (12.5, 25, 175) and different metal loadings (2.3-23.4 wt%) was investigated in order to elucidate the role of catalyst acidity and the structure of Ni in the HDO reaction. Results show that the deoxygenation activity and product selectivity depend on the choice of support (acidity, pore size), level of metal loading, and reaction conditions. Guaiacol was deoxygenated in the presence of hydrogen with a maximum cyclohexane yield of 76% at a guaiacol conversion level of 100% over 15.7 wt% Ni/Beta-12.5 catalyst. Compared to Ni/ZSM-5 catalysts, Ni/Beta catalysts with mesopores facilitated the formation of coupling products (1,1′-bicyclohexyl). Under differential reaction conditions, we observed a linear relationship between deoxygenation activity and concentration of acid sites. Over catalysts containing small Ni particles, cyclohexane was formed as a result of a consecutive reduction of guaiacol to catechol and cyclohexane. At higher Ni-loading and consequently larger Ni particles, the selectivity towards cyclohexane increases with increased Ni loading. A higher concentration of nickel hydrides compared to smaller Ni sites was observed by H2-TPD and H2-FTIR over larger Ni species, and the nickel hydrides are believed to be crucial intermediates in the hydrogenation reaction. The 15.7 wt% Ni/Beta (Si/Al = 12.5) exhibits a promising HDO activity due to its good synergistic effect of hydrogenation and deoxygenation functions (high concentration nickel hydrides of and acid sites). In addition, based on the product distribution over catalysts containing mainly small Ni species and the Ni nanoparticles, two different reaction pathways were proposed, and the role of the acid sites and metal sites for each reaction route was discussed.
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