PTT, the national energy company of Thailand and Velocys (formerly Oxford Catalysts) are proceeding with the commercial deployment in Thailand (and other regions) of Velocys’ small-scale microchannel GTL technology. PTT is particularly interested in modular GTL technology as a means to monetize associated gas from on-shore wells that is currently disposed of by flaring.
The two companies have been collaborating since late 2009. In February 2010, under the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) (earlier post), PTT agreed to provide funding to support the development and commercialisation of Velocys microchannel SMR technology. In 2012, under terms of a research collaboration with Velocys, PTT opened a new experimental facility for testing microchannel reactors at its Research Institute in Wangnoi, approximately 70 km (43 miles) north of Bangkok.
In this next phase of collaboration, PTT has commissioned Toyo Engineering to conduct a detailed engineering design of a 100 barrel per day (bpd) GTL facility that will include Velocys’ microchannel SMR and FT technologies. The location of a facility will be finalized at the end of the FEED study in mid-2014, depending on the availability of gas resource and synergies with existing facilities.
Conventional GTL technology is only economically viable for plants producing around 30,000 barrels per day (bpd) or more. However, only about 6% of the world’s known gas fields are large enough to sustain a GTL plant of that size. In contrast, the smaller scale GTL plants being developed by Velocys are based on the use of microchannel Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reactors and are designed to operate efficiently and economically when producing between 1,000 and 15,000 bpd of liquid fuels. GTL at this scale could unlock up to 50% of the remaining fields that conventional GTL cannot economically exploit, the company suggests. In total, smaller scale GTL could produce as much as 25 million barrels per day of synthetic fuels annually, worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Velocys smaller scale GTL plants are built in a modular fashion and can be scaled up to match the gas resource. Investment can be phased. The plants are fabricated mainly in a factory environment, with each unit designed to fit into a standard-sized shipping container for ease of transport. Because roughly 70% of the plant is complete before the modules are shipped, the time and cost needed to construct the plant on site is greatly reduced. This approach allows good control of the capital cost and engineering quality, and a faster project schedule.
Microchannel Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reactors. Microchannel technology is a developing field of chemical processing that intensifies chemical reactions. It enables lower cost, smaller and more productive processes by improving the heat and mass transfer performance and reducing the dimensions of the reactor systems. Mass and heat transfer limitations reduce the efficiency of the conventional large FT reactors. The use of microchannel technology makes it possible to overcome these limitations and to intensify the chemical reactions, enabling them to occur at significantly higher rates than in conventional systems.
Microchannel FT reactors are compact reactors containing thousands of channels with characteristic dimensions in the millimeter range. The FT process is highly exothermic, or heat generating. In microchannel FT reactors process channels, filled with catalyst, are interleaved with water-filled coolant channels. The small-sized channels dissipate heat more quickly than conventional fixed-bed reactors with relatively larger tubes in the 2.5 – 10 cm (1 – 4 inch) range. As a result, more active catalysts can be used.
Velocys’ FT reactors and highly active FT catalyst have been successfully tested at the laboratory, pilot and demonstration scales.