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07-04-2021

Catalyst innovations drive a more performant and sustainable refining and petrochemical industry

Zeopore successfully builds on groundbreaking research at KU Leuven (Belgium), which focused on advancing mesoporization technology and the economical applicability of mesoporized zeolite catalysts. Today, Zeopore makes current processes in oil refineries and petrochemical plants more performant, sustainable and cost-effective. It offers proven catalytic benefits for key industries including FCC, hydrocracking and dewaxing, which result in more efficient operations and huge financial benefits. Zeopore's zeolite innovations also serve as the fundament in new emerging applications such as the conversions of biomass or waste plastics. After having increased its capital in August 2020, Zeopore is further strengthening its technological position and collaborating with reputable parties towards scaleup and commercial rollout

Superior zeolite catalysts manufactured at low cost
 In the refining and petrochemical industry, zeolite catalysts are widely used to produce the desired automotive fuels and petrochemical base chemicals in an efficient and sustainable manner. Apart from their excellent intrinsic properties (e.g. stability, crystallinity, acidity), these catalysts exhibit a narrow micropore structure that forms the basis of their strength, yielding exceptional selectivities to desired products. However, such narrow pores also provoke access and diffusion limitations. As a result, only a minor part of the crystal surface of zeolites is actually utilized.

"To resolve this, zeolites are 'mesoporized' to further increase catalytic efficiency by improving their porous structure," says Kurt Du Mong, CEO of Zeopore. "Complementing a zeolite's micropores with a network of larger mesopores, significantly increases the accessibility to the active sites inside the zeolite crystals. Moreover, by tuning the porosity and other zeolitic properties, one can steer the selectivity performance of the catalyst for each individual process.”

For decades, mesoporous zeolites have been renowned for their outstanding catalytic performance. However, they have been commercially overlooked based on the high price tag and limited scalability of the processes required to produce them. In 2015-2017, groundbreaking research by Dr. Danny Verboekend at the KU Leuven Center for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under supervision of Prof. Dr. Bert Sels, solved the problem. Danny Verboekend: "Our processes convert standard commercial zeolites into superior materials, using post-synthetic treatments in aqueous solutions in combination with steam. Our know-how and technologies enable to couple the benefits of high-quality accessible zeolites with a low-cost and tunable manufacturing process."

The potential was evident and in December 2017, Zeopore was founded with Kurt Du Mong as CEO and Danny Verboekend as CTO. Today, the team has grown into a balanced workforce that combines decades of accumulated experience and covers all key disciplines of the business, including technology, quality, upscaling and commercialization. "It is also beneficial to be located in Leuven, Flanders (Belgium), the largest petrochemical cluster in Europe."

Leuven serves as the perfect ecosystem for Zeopore to further grow and excel. In 2020, the city was awarded 'European Capital of Innovation' by the European Commission and its university heads Europe's list of most innovative universities. Also in 2020, Zeopore substantially increased its capital through an investment round led by Capricorn Partners with participations and continued support from existing shareholders KU Leuven, Innovation Fund and Gemma Frisius Fund.

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