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Thermal cracking is the oldest and, in a way, the simplest cracking process. It basically aims at the reduction of molecular size by application of heat without any additional sophistication such as catalyst or hydrogen. At a temperature level of 450-500 C, the larger hydrocarbon molecules become unstable and tend to break spontaneously into smaller molecules of all possible sizes and types. By varying the time, temperature and pressure under which a particular feedstock remains under cracking conditions, the desired degree of cracking (conversion) can be controlled. Temperature and time (residence time) are important process variables pressure plays a secondary role.

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