The first commercial circulating fluid bed reactor, PCLA #1 (Powdered Catalyst Louisiana), went on stream on May 25, 1942, in the Baton Rouge Refinery of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (now Exxon Corporation). This first use of powdered catalysts in continuous operation allowed the efficient cracking of heavy gas oils to meet the growing demand for high-octane fuels. PCLA #1 was dismantled in 1963 after 21 years of successful operation. Today, more than 350 fluid bed reactors, including PCLA #2 and PCLA #3, are in use worldwide for the manufacture of fuels, chemical intermediates, and plastics.
The creation and development of the fluidized bed reactor system for catalytic cracking of petroleum was a cooperative effort that involved many talented scientists and engineers. The group, estimated at one thousand, represented the largest single concentration of scientific effort, up to that time, directed toward a common goal. Later during World War II, this effort was surpassed only by the radar and Manhattan projects in the United States.
Warren K. Lewis and Edwin R. Gilliland obtained patent coverage for the fluid bed idea. Professor Lewis was chairman of the Chemical Engineering Department at MIT and was one of the best known chemical engineers in the country. The patent describing the circulating catalyst fluid bed reactor-regenerator named Donald L. Campbell, Homer Z. Martin, Egar V. Murphree and Charles W. Tyson inventors, all employed by the Standard Oil Development Co. These patents were licensed to all the members of the Catalytic Research Associates.
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The Fluid Bed Reactor
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