Carbon Sciences, Inc., the licenser and developer of technology for the dry catalytic reforming of methane to produce gasoline and other transportation fuels (earlier post), now plans to commercialize its catalyst as a drop-in replacement in the existing billion-dollar catalyst market for steam methane reforming (SMR).
Steam methane reforming (SMR) is the most common commercial method for producing bulk hydrogen as well as hydrogen used in the industrial synthesis of ammonia and methanol. In a typical SMR reactor, steam takes up approximately 75% of the volume, therefore leaving only 25% available for natural gas. This high steam-to methane ratio is needed to prevent coking and deactivation of the SMR catalyst. Carbon Science’s catalyst exhibits low coking, long run time and prefers a much lower amount of steam, the company says.
Based on our internal market research and technical analysis, we believe our dry reforming catalyst can be adapted to work as a direct replacement for steam reforming catalysts. Because our catalyst prefers less steam, we believe we can process more natural gas in the reactor, therefore producing more hydrogen per pass. Also, by reducing the amount of steam, a very energy intensive component, we can reduce the overall operating costs and capital costs of the steam production plant. Lastly, because our process consumes CO2 we can further reduce cost in markets that require CO2 mitigation.—Byron Elton, Carbon Sciences CEO
Dry reforming of methane has attracted attention from both industrial and environmental sectors. One of the major obstacles encountered in the application of this process is rapid deactivation of the catalyst, which is mainly due to carbon accumulation, or coking, and sintering of both the support and active metal particles. The solution has been the use of “noble” metals, including platinum and ruthenium to address the problem.
The high cost and limited availability of noble metals has made large scale dry reforming economically unfeasible. Our catalyst is based on inexpensive, non-noble metals and has been proven to be the most robust catalyst for dry reforming in the world. If successful in modifying our catalyst to operate under the conditions of SMR, which is close to our current dry reforming operating conditions, it will be an instant large market opportunity for us.—Byron Elton
In late 2010, Carbon Sciences Inc. (CSI) executed a worldwide exclusive license agreement with the University of Saskatchewan (UOS), Canada, for catalyst technology for the dry reforming of methane with CO2 to augment its own development work. (Earlier post.)