Catalyst solutions

Discover the possibilities of modern catalysis and advanced reactors!

Today's trend in the energy related sectors is to go for smaller, decentralized production plants. These plants can utilize locally procured bio-waste, industrial side streams, and surplus renewable electricity for the production of sustainable fuels and chemicals. However, down-scaling a traditional industrial process is rarely a feasible solution for a small scale plant as the economic benefits of large scale are often lost. The optimization of temperature control, pressure-drop, catalyst utilization, unit size and oxygen feeding, among others, are essential for the viability of a small-to-medium scale plant. 


The combination of modern intensified reactor technologies and catalytic coatings provide versatile solutions for the processing wide range of renewable feedstock into sustainable products. VTT has been developing and producing customized catalysts for small-to-medium scale reactors for decades. We are specialized in, but not limited to, heterogeneous catalysts for steam reforming, gas ultra-cleaning, catalytic partial oxidation, methanation and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. We have facilities and methods for the manufacturing of up to 100 kg batches of particle catalysts and for the coating of industrial scale monoliths.


With the small scale decentralized units and intensified reactor technologies, inexpensive local feedstock and surplus electricity can be turned in to value-added products. Modular reactor technologies have tolerable investment risks and flexible production capacities for fluctuating feedstocks. Utilization of CO2, waste and biomass boosts the share of sustainable products in the market and brings the society closer to the international and domestic environmental targets. VTT is in the forefront of modern technical solutions for climate and energy challenges. We can offer a sustainable solution that is suitable for your process and beneficial for your business.  


For close to two decades we have worked on tailored solutions for the catalyst development of high-temperature, gas phase processes. Our expertise is in the catalyst development for demanding conditions. Our specialty are zirconia-based oxidation catalysts that decompose one of the most harmful gasification gas component, namely the heavy tar fraction.  The technology has been patented worldwide.

We are developing, producing and testing process catalysts for multiple purposes, such as Fischer-Tropsch, steam reforming, water-gas-shift, methanation, aqueous phase reforming and methanol synthesis. We are able to produce requested combination of support + promoters/additives + active components in the scale from few grams up to several hundreds of kilos. We are also co-operating with many commercial catalyst manufacturers.

Doped zirconia catalysts

We are specialized in doped zirconia catalyst development for gas cleaning purposes. The catalysts have been tested in the laboratory scale for several thousands of hours and in numerous conditions. Our gas clean-up catalyst have been used in pilot scale at VTT and in demonstration scale at Varkaus demostration plant of NSE Biofuels. In the industrial scale they have been used in Skive plant, Denmark. The catalyst has good tolerance for any impurities present in the biomass gasification gas, especially sulfur. It decomposes tar components with high conversion at relatively low temperature range from 600 °C to 700 °C.

Steam reforming, water gas shift and methanation catalysts

We develope, test and manufacture nickel, rhodium, ruthenium and platinum –based catalysts on various support materials for both coated and packed bed reactors. We are able to produce them from micro-scale reactors up to pilot scale. We have options for coated bench scale reactors for both gas cleaning and synthesis purposes. Our catalysts are always tested in industrially relevant conditions and benchmarked against commercial catalysts.

Fischer-Tropsch catalysts

We have twenty years of experience in Fischer-Tropsch catalyst optimization for the production of synthetic diesel or gasoline. The main focus of the research has been on the cobalt catalysts, especially on the effect of promoter, support and preparation method. We have patented Co / ZSM-5, Co / SCMM and Co / de-Al-Y catalysts. We are able to produce Fischer-Tropsch catalysts from small laboratory batches up to pilot scale.


Our wide selection of reactor set-ups are constantly used for catalyst testing and process optimization. Our automatic control and safety systems enable overnight runs, long duration testing (e.g. 1000 hours) and cyclically changing conditions. Gas analyzer measurements, FTIR analysis and GC samples can be taken continuously during entire test run. We are able to feed and analyze gas streams containing steam, tar model compounds, ammonia and H2S, among more conventional gas components.

The set-ups are also regularly used for purposes outside catalyst testing. For example, we do heat and gas treatments for solid materials, provide feed gases and analysis for biotechnological systems, and costruct tailored systems for special samples.

Customers are also welcome to lease our set-ups for their own use. We provide sufficient training and continuous technical support during the testing. We are able to construct and modify our set-ups according to the customer needs. It is also possible to connect an external apparatus to our systems.

PPFR1 – Pressurized Plug Flow Reactor

Temperature: 300 – 950 °C

Pressure: 1 – 20 bar

Flow rate: 1 – 15 l/min

Sample volume: Catalyst bed 1 – 25 cm3 or 2x2x10 monolith

Gases: CO, CO2, H2, N2, O2, CH4, C2H4, H2S, NH3, H2O, model tar compounds, possibility for additional bottle gases


PPFR2 – Pressurized Plug Flow Reactor

Temperature: 300 – 1000 °C

Pressure: 1 – 10 bar

Flow rate: 1 – 15 l/min

Sample volume: Catalyst bed 1 – 25 cm3 or 2x2x10 monolith

Gases: CO, CO2, H2, N2, O2, CH4, C2H4, H2S, NH3, H2O, model tar compounds, possibility for additional bottle gases


APFR2 – Atmospheric Plug Flow Reactor

Temperature: 300 – 1200 °C

Pressure: Atmospheric

Flow rate: 1 – 2 l/min

Sample volume: Catalyst bed 1 – 25 cm3 or 2x2x10 monolith

Gases: CO, CO2, H2, N2, O2, CH4, C2H4, H2S, NH3, H2O, model tar compounds, possibility for additional bottle gases


APFR3 – Atmospheric Plug Flow Reactor 

Temperature: up to 700 °C

Pressure: Atmospheric

Flow rate: up to 2 l/min

Catalyst volume: Multiple reactor types in use

Gases: CO, CO2, H2, N2, synthetic air, H2O, model tar compounds, possibility for additional bottle gases


Fischer-Tropsch reactor

Temperature: < 550 °C

Pressure: 100 bar

Flow rate: Typically 5 – 20 l/h

Catalyst volume: Typically 2- 50 ml (reactors with varying diameters)

Gases: Typically CO, H2, N2 or Ar, (CO2, CH4)

The system is equipped with an on-line GC-system which can be used to analyze CO, H2, N2/Ar, CO2, CH4, hydrocarbons up to C15, n-alcohols up to C12 as well as other oxygenates if needed.


Aqueous phase reformer

Temperature: atm - 600 °C

Pressure: atm - 40 bar

Liquid flow rate: 0.5 – 10 ml/min

Gas flow rate: N2 100 mln/min, H2 80 mln/min

Catalyst volume: Reactor dimension: DI: 12 mm, L = 405 mm. Flexible volume (possible to reduce by metal bar filling)

Product analysis: On-line GC with FID and TCD

NSE Biofuels, Varkaus, Finland

VTT developed a gasification and gas clean-up technology for NSE Biofuels during 2008-2011. The process included novel reforming technology for upgrading biomass based gasification gas for the production of liquid biofuels. The development work resulted in 5 MW pilot plant.

Kokemäki, Finland

Kokemäki CHP plant was designed to produce 1.8 MWe power and 3.3 MW of heat by gasifying biomass. Both gasification and gas clean-up technologies were developed by VTT. Our gas clean-up catalysts were applied in the reformer. The plant was operated as a demonstration from 2005 until 2007.

Skive, Denmark

Skive CHP plant produces 6 MW power and 12 MW of district heat by gasifying wood pellets and chips. The outlet gasifier gas, which contains impurities such as tars, was successfully operated with our gas clean-up catalysts in 2006.

Catalyst screening

Several catalyst samples from commercial manufacturers were screened for activity and robustness in the steam reforming of biomass gasification gas. The inlet gas contained typical impurities of biomass gasification gas, such as naphthalene, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. The activities were tested in the temperature range from 800 °C to 1000 °C. The results are published in Kaisalo et al., Fuel 147 (2015) 208-20.

Catalyst deactivation test

Eight sample catalysts were compared for their long term durability in steam reforming of biomass gasification gas. The inlet gas had high load of hydrocarbons and H2S as major deactivating impurity. Each test continued for 400 hours and they were constantly monitored with GC, FTIR and gas analyzer. The results are published in Kaisalo et al., Fuel 147 (2015) 208-20.

Carbon formation test

Carbon formation in the steam reforming of natural gas for SOFC appliance was studied with nickel and precious metal catalysts. The effect of inlet gas O/C ratio on carbon formation was monitored. After each experiment the carbon on catalyst was oxidized in situ and the outlet gas was analyzed for CO and CO2. The results are published in Kihlman et al., Int J Hydrogen Energ 40 (2015) 1548-58.

Material test

The deactivating effect of steam on an in-house development catalyst was tested by subjecting the catalyst to a hydrothermal treatment. The activity of the catalyst was tested before and after the treatment. In the hydrothermal test the catalyst is kept at 700 °C for 85 hours with constant H2O/N2 80/20 vol% flow.

Reactor screening for scale-up

Catalytic heat exchanger reactor was tested in laboratory scale to obtain data for reactor up-scaling. A washcoated tube reactor was placed in an oil bath which maintained constant temperature despite strongly exothermic reaction. The tube reactor and the closed steel vessel for the circulating oil were constructed and the APFR3 set-up was modified to accommodate the system. Outlet gas composition was monitored continuously with gas analyzer and gas bag samples were taken for verification.

Material treatment

It is possible to utilize our high temperature furnaces and variety of gases for specific treatment of a material. For example, high temperature oxidations and reductions are regularly carried out in our laboratory. Also, treatments with impurities such as H2S are possible. As a case example, metallic powder samples were treated with hydrogen with specific heating rate.

Fischer-Tropsch experiments

The Fischer-Tropsch system has been used in studying cobalt and iron-based catalysts for Fischer-Tropsch and methanol synthesis as well as for the first phase of the bio-BTX-process. The tubular reactor system has been the workhorse in several projects and master’s theses.


EU FCH-JU funded project (2014 - 2018) for the development of a staged solid oxide fuel cell system. VTT Catalyst Technologies team is responsible for the development, process optimization and testing of bench scale catalytic heat exchanger reactor for steam reforming. Visit STAGE-SOFC website for more information!


EU FCH-JU funded project (2016 - 2019) for the production of green industrial hydrogen by reversible high-temperature electrolysis. VTT Catalyst Technologies team studies the utilization and clean-up of industrial off-gases. Visit GRINHY website for more information!


Tekes funded project (2014 - 2018) for the development of a new energy system that is based entirely on renewable power and fuels. VTT Catalyst Technologies team participated the project by developing a catalytic heat exchanger reactor for CO2 methantion for energy storage purposes. Visit NeoCarbon Energy website for more information!


Business Finland funded project (2016 - 2018) for the demonstration of biofuel production utilizing solar electricity and captured CO2 from air. The demostration plant was operated during summer 2017. Total 200 litres of Fischer-Tropsch liquids and waxes were produced. VTT provided the site with Mobile Synthesis Unit and Direct Air Capture Unit. Visit the SOLETAIR website for more information!



National EAKR funded project (2017 - 2019) for the demonstration of the production of bio-CO2 based fuels at industrial site. The project will utilize the catalytic reactors of the Mobile Synthesis Unit for the production of Fischer-Tropsch fuels and synthetic natural gas.


EU Horizon2020 funded project (2017 - 2021) for the development of decentraliced solution for biofuel production. VTT develops biomass gasification gas clean-up system including enhanced filtration, steam reforming, and gas ultra-cleaning units. The focus of the catalyst development is in the utilization of ALD coatings and membrane technologies. Visit COMSYN website for more information.



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