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Fast Facts
Resource efficiency and circular economy
Funding period
01.09.2017 - 31.01.2021
Funding volume
1.386.334 €
Funding reference number

Coordinator: Technische Universität Dresden

Contact Person: Prof. Dr. Jan J. Weigand

Address: Mommsenstraße 4, 01069 Dresden


Email: @email


Project partners

  • AIOTEC GmbH, Berlin


Project partners in Vietnam

  • Vietnam Petroleum Institute, Hanoi
  • Vietnam National University - University of Science, Hanoi
  • Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical Co., Ltd.
  • PetroVietnam, Vietnam Oil and Gas Group

ReCaLI - Novel Residual Catalysts for the Use of Fossil and Biogenic Raw Materials in Oil Refining

An increasing global demand for basic chemicals such as propene is forcing developing and producing countries in particular to find innovative approaches to their supply. Propene is an essential and versatile building block for the production of everyday objects such as automobile fittings made of polypropylene (PP) or polyacrylic textile fibres (PAN). Since propene is not produced to a sufficient extent in classical oil-refining processes and tonnes of spent catalyst are produced daily, countries with limited access to high-quality crude oil, such as Vietnam, face special challenges. For these countries, local production of propene and a switch to biogenic input materials is therefore essential. Against this backdrop, the German-Vietnamese project ReCaLl is developing modified technical FCC (fluid catalytic cracking) catalysts with shared use of spent catalyst material.

Recycling spent catalysts

One of the most important refining processes for the production of fuels and chemical products from petroleum components is fluid catalytic cracking (FCC). A catalyst is used to improve the process. This deactivates, among other things, due to the deposition of environmentally hazardous and unhealthy hydrocarbons and metals such as nickel, iron and vanadium. In oil refineries, in Vietnam as well, several tonnes of spent catalyst are created per oil refinery per day. In many countries, the catalysts are disposed of in landfills or building materials without pretreatment and thus represents a high risk to humans and the environment.

Accumulated spent catalyst filled in big packs © TU Dresden, AK Weigand
Accumulated spent catalyst filled in big packs © TU Dresden, AK Weigand

Spent FCC catalysts still contain important raw materials such as rare earth metals or silicon and aluminium compounds. However, the recovery of these resources is hardly an established process. The ReCaLl project therefore aims to recycle spent FCC catalysts. In the course of the project, the recovered components are to be converted into new industrial catalysts as well as other commercially exploitable products directly in the respective country together with locally available resources.

For PetroVietnam, the operator of a refinery in Dung Quat / Vietnam, covering its growing demand for propene is a challenge. In addition, with the generation of up to18 tonnes of spent FCC catalyst per day, it is facing a landfill and recycling problem.

Production of selective catalysts from residues

The increasing demand for propene also requires the adaptation of product selectivity in the FCC process and can be realised using catalyst additives.  Various aluminosilicates are being used as main catalyst components and additives in the ReCaLl project.   ReCaLl is committed to researching specific seed crystals to implement synthetic solutions with low qualitative defects and under the technical conditions prevailing in Vietnam.

In general, the use of catalyst additives leads to an improvement in selectivity and higher raw material efficiency of the catalysts used, but at the same time to a deterioration of regenerability and lifetime. From this problem arises the need for innovative catalysts or catalyst additives. The catalysts developed in the context of ReCaLl are meant to meet the challenges of the FCC process, the increasing need for propene and the change in resources to lighter fossil and biogenic raw materials, including in technical applications.

The ReCaLl project can combine and expand on experience gained from previous research projects to create a sustainable, industry-oriented overall concept. The project ranges from catalyst recycling and catalyst design to the development of technical catalysts for the conversion of fossil and biogenic raw materials.

Sustainability in the refinery

Catalyst research and catalyst recycling, as well as the subsequent exploitation of the results for catalyst development and use at the Dung Quat refinery in Vietnam, are of great economic and local political interest for the public image of the oil industry. Cooperation with Vietnamese research institutions and companies with international partners is therefore supported by the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology.

Picture 2
Fluid Catalytic Cracking Anlage der Erdölraffinerie in Dung Quat, Vietnam.    ©  Vietnam Petroleum Institute, © Dr. Vu Xuan Hoan

By adding biogenic raw materials and residues to lower-quality crude oil for the production of basic chemicals and fuels, ReCaLl wants to make a contribution to a bio-economic and socially justifiable supply in Vietnam. The recycling of spent catalysts serves to close the material cycle for a more environmentally friendly catalyst production. This is relevant for the transition to the energy and raw material revolution, especially before the achievement of nationwide electromobility, and in particular in emerging markets in the short and medium term. It may also be possible to use the methods developed by ReCaLl in other countries.