ClearRefining Process Upgrades ULSD to Lighter, Cleaner-Burning Fuel; Nevada Designates it an Alternative Fuel
Nevada-based Advanced Refining Concepts, LLC, (ARC) has developed a process—called ClearRefining—for the upgrading of ultra-low sulfur diesel to a lighter, cleaner burning, higher quality fuel. The GDiesel product was recently designated as an alternative fuel by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) due to the reduction in criteria emissions stemming from GDiesel use.
The low-temperature (295 °F, 146 °F), low-pressure (<10 psi, 69 kPa) ClearRefining process combines ULSD with natural gas in a catalytic system that essentially smoothes out the spike of the heavier molecular weight alkanes in conventional diesel, resulting in a heavy concentration in the C10 to C14 range, says Peter Gunnerman, co-founder and director of Advanced Refining Concepts. GDiesel still meets all the ASTM D975 specifications.
We’re moving the [alkane] concentration to the lower molecular weight product. In theory, if you have a fuel that has that characteristic, you see improved responsiveness, less smoke, with efficiency increases. It burns a little bit quicker and more completely than the initial product. That’s theory. In practice, our customers, have come back with reports of improved mileage, responsiveness and less odor.—Peter Gunnerman
The ClearRefining process combines ULSD with natural gas in a tank at 295 °F (below the diesel boiling point) and low pressure. A fog of diesel vapor and natural gas is generated at the top of the tank; this mixture is passed through a series of four catalytic plates, then a series of chillers, then a series of condensers. The result is GDiesel fuel.
Gas not used is circulated and ultimately several units offgas into another unit. ARC is trying to have no gas remaining at the end of the process, Gunnerman said.
The ClearRefining units are “zero-emission” at the refinery, Gunnerman said. ARC takes all of the power required from the electric grid. At the ARC refinery there are no emissions, no solid byproducts and no liquid effluents. Because of that, Gunnerman said, the permitting process for a ClearRefining unit can be extremely rapid; their first refinery completed permitting in 43 days. Construction time is also very short. ARC broke ground on its first refinery on 27 Sep 2009, and it came online in August 2010.
ARC envisions the potential for small, inexpensive, low-capital refineries in a distributed model that provides another quality control steps between the large refiners and the consumer’s tank.
ARC is currently selling GDiesel at the same price as regular diesel through five local and regional Nevada distributors, including Golden Gate Petroleum, one of the largest fuel distributors in Northern Nevada and Northern California. ARC recently began the start-up phase at its Peru Heights refinery, which will produce up to 100,000 gallons of GDiesel per day when fully operational. The site is on 10 acres owned by the company at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, located 10 miles east of Reno, Nev.
Although the company (which is a small business with 30 employees) is concentrating immediately on the Nevada diesel market, the ClearRefining process could be applied to other end products (such as jet fuel), and use other inputs, such as kerosene, Gunnerman said.