|Velocys microchannels vs. conventional process technology. Click to enlarge.|
The US Congress has approved $1.3 million in FY 2007 funding for the further development of a synthetic fuels project by Velocys, a subsidiary of Battelle Memorial Institute.
This project, which is being conducted in conjunction with the US Army National Automotive Center (NAC), has the goal of developing a compact, microchannel reactor-based Fischer-Tropsch process to transform natural gas, coal and other non-petroleum resources into liquid fuels. (Earlier post).
For the key components of the synthetic fuels process, Velocys is applying its patented microchannel process technology.
Microchannel technology can reduce both capital and operating costs, thereby enabling the production of lower cost synthetic fuels. [Velocys technology] allows the bigger is better paradigm of chemical processing to be broken in favor of smaller, more nimble facilities.—Dr. Wayne Simmons, Velocys CEO
|Velocys’s technology improves catalyst activity. Click to enlarge.|
Velocys’ reactors are characterized by parallel arrays of microchannels, with typical dimensions ranging between 0.025cm to 0.5cm (0.010–0.200 inch). The enhanced heat and mass transfer of microchannel hardware allow reactions to proceed much more quickly than traditional processes, enabling higher product yield and greater energy efficiency. By effectively controlling heat transfer rates and temperature ranges, microchannel reactors allow catalysts to operate in their peak performance windows.
Approval of another year of funding for the Velocys synthetic fuels program was based on the technical progress made to date. Pat Muzzell, the program’s manager at the NAC which is part of the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center under the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command, said that she was “very pleased with Velocys’ progress on the Fischer-Tropsch reactor and other components of the synthetic fuels process.”
Velocys microchannel technology, coupled with novel catalysts, is being used to improve each of the process steps in the production of synthetic fuels from a variety of feedstocks (coal, biomass and natural gas): the conversion of synthesis gas into long chain hydrocarbons in a Fischer-Tropsch process and the subsequent hydrocracking to produce high-quality, sulfur-free, liquid fuels.
Velocys is also working with Total on Gas-to-Liquids production. (Earlier post.) Velocys was launched in 2001 and has already developed a portfolio of 50 patents and received $75 million of investment from industry leading partners, including Dow Chemical, ABB and Total S.A.