One of the major unsung crimes against our planet is flaring -- i.e. the process of burning off unwanted natural gas in an open and entirely useless flame, technically known as a flare. According to World Bank figures, 5.25 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of associated gas – the equivalent of 25% of US gas consumption – was flared in 2004 (http://tinyurl.com/Flare-Gas-Stats). This happens all around the globe in remote oil fields where capturing and transporting the gas would be uneconomical.
The Oxford University spinout company Oxford Catalysts, together with the microchannel reactor specialists Velocys Inc. has developed a microchannel reactor involving Fischer-Tropsch catalysis (see my earlier feature in Oxford Today) offering an economically attractive way of converting stranded gas into liquid fuel in situ, thus cutting down the flaring.
Velocys has announced this week that a joint demonstration testing agreement (JDTA) has been settled between Velocys, Inc., offshore facility developers, MODEC, the global engineering firm Toyo Engineering, and the Brazilian State oil company Petrobras to build and operate a microchannel GTL (Gas To Liquid) demonstration facility. The companies hope that this agreement will bring the prospect of routine offshore production of liquid fuel from stranded gas a step closer to reality.
The 5-10 barrel/day (bbl/d) demonstration facility will include a microchannel steam methane reformer (SMR) along with a microchannel Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reactor. The demonstration plant, which is expected to be up and running by early 2011, will be constructed by Toyo Engineering with support from MODEC and installed at the Petrobas facility in Fortaleza, Brazil. The FT and SMR microchannel reactors will be fabricated by Kobe Steel Ltd.
Following successful demonstration, this technology is expected to be used by MODEC, Toyo and Velocys on the commercial floating production, storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs) used in the development of offshore oil and gas fields.