Monday, July 30, 2012

Synthetic Fuels: Microchannel Fischer-Tropsch Selected For California Waste-To-Liquids Commercial Demonstration Plant

Microchannel Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reactor technology developed by Velocys, Inc., the US-based subsidiary of the Oxford Catalysts Group, has been selected for use in a waste-to-liquids (WTL) commercial demonstration plant to be constructed in northern California by the California-based company Sierra Energy. The plant, which is partially funded by a $5 million award from the California Energy Commission (CEC) will have a capacity of 25-100 barrels per day (bpd), which will be produced from locally sourced municipal solid waste (MSW). It is expected to begin operating in 2013.

The WTL process is used to convert waste biomass – including MSW – into ultra-clean synthetic fuels. The process involves two main operations: production of a synthesis gas (syngas) using a gasifier, followed by FT synthesis. The resulting FT product can then be upgraded via hydrocracking and fractionation to produce a range of liquid hydrocarbon fuels. The fuels produced can be directly substituted for conventional fuels, and are generally of higher quality than those derived by conventional means.

Microchannel reactors are compact reactors that have channels with diameters in the millimetre range. These small channels dissipate heat more quickly than conventional reactors with larger channel diameters in the 2.5 – 10 cm (1 – 4 inch) range, so more active catalysts can be used, such as those developed by Oxford Catalysts. Mass and heat transfer limitations reduce the efficiency of the large conventional reactors used for Fischer-Tropsch and Steam Methane Reforming reactions and hydroprocessing. The use of microchannel processing makes it possible to greatly intensify chemical reactions enabling them to occur at rates 10 to 1000 times faster than in conventional systems.
Microchannel reactor
Credit: Oxford Catalysts

In the commercial demonstration, which will be hosted by SacPort Biofuels, the gasification will be carried out using Sierra Energy’s proprietary FastOx waste gasification process. The FT synthesis will be carried out using Velocys’ microchannel FT reactor technology. Sierra Energy intends to use this commercial demonstration as the basis for the design of a turn-key, waste gasification system called the FastOx Pathfinder.

Jeff McDaniel, Commercial Director, Oxford Catalyst Group said: “The high efficiency and modular nature of our microchannel FT reactors makes them particularly useful for this type of application because capacity can be easily increased by simply ‘numbering up’ or linking together additional FT reactor modules. We are very pleased that Sierra Energy has selected our microchannel FT reactor for use alongside its FastOx waste gasification technology in this WTL commercial demonstration.”

Michael Hart, President and CEO of Sierra Energy said: “Creating flexible, modular, small-scale systems is the key to bringing waste gasification to a broader market. FastOx gasification coupled with Velocys’ microchannel FT reactor technology allows communities to produce transportation fuels directly from their waste, reducing their environmental footprint and creating a significant new source of revenue for their community.”

Contacts and sources:
Oxford Catalysts  

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