|Molten Salt Gasification Process. Click to enlarge.|
Western Hydrogen Limited reported first production of hydrogen from its Molten Salt Gasification (MSG) pilot plant in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. The MSG process, under license from Idaho National Laboratory, uses a combination of molten sodium salts (sodium carbonate and sodium hydroxide) to convert a carbon feedstock and water into hydrogen. The technology allows the production of high-pressure hydrogen without the need for compression and can use a variety of feedstocks, including renewables.
Following six years of testing at the Idaho National Laboratory, the pilot plant was constructed to demonstrate the technology’s reliability in a large-scale production facility.
The MSG process occurs in a single high-pressure reactor in which a carbon-based feedstock and water react with a molten salt bath. Depending on operating conditions, the system can produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide at pressures up to 2000 psig; or synthesis gas (i.e. CO + H2) at similar pressures.
In hydrogen mode, a high-pressure hydrogen stream, separated from the product gas, can be fed directly to an upgrading or refining process with little or no compression. A separate stream of high-pressure carbon dioxide, ready for sequestration or enhanced oil recovery, can be captured at a lower cost due to the higher operating pressures relative to conventional gasification technologies.
In synthesis gas mode, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide can be fed to a Fischer-Tropsch unit to produce synthetic liquid fuels. If required, the hydrogen to carbon monoxide ratio can be adjusted by conducting a water gas shift reaction prior to the FT reactor.
Advantages of combining MSG with FT include heat integration (i.e. Molten Salt Gasification is endothermic and Fischer Tropsch is exothermic); MSG supplies the synthesis gas at high pressure, which the Fischer Tropsch process requires; and the hydrocarbon-contaminated water produced by the Fischer-Tropsch reaction can be recycled back into the Molten Salt Gasification process.
As a key ingredient to convert oil sands bitumen into synthetic crude, hydrogen is an important component to Canada’s sustainable and prosperous futureThe innovative MSG technology reduces the overall footprint of oil sands production, something producers are striving for and consumers and export markets are increasingly demanding.—Vicky Sharpe, President and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada
By commercializing the Molten Salt Gasification process, Western Hydrogen believes it can create significant benefits for hydrogen users, especially those in the hydrogen-intensive oil sands business. Oil sands operators use Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) to produce hydrogen from natural gas. The MSG process can produce high pressure hydrogen from natural gas but it can also be switched to other feedstocks, such as petroleum coke or renewables, at a marginal cost.
High pressure and the favorable chemical kinetics of the reactions allow for the use of small reactors to generate large volumes of hydrogen continuously. The very high energy efficiency of the process results in a lower unit cost for the hydrogen produced and lower CO2 emissions overall. The new pilot plant will be used to prove the competitive advantages of the MSG technology—and particularly the ability to run on different feedstocks with the same plant. You simply can’t do that with an SMR.—Neil Camarta, Chief Executive Officer of Western Hydrogen
Western Hydrogen is also targeting the renewable energy market. Countries such as Germany, Japan, Korea and the USA are currently developing low carbon “hydrogen economies” reliant on rapidly advancing fuel cell technologies.
After testing on a range of fossil fuels, the MSG pilot plant will be switched to a renewable feedstock and integrated with fuel cells to demonstrate the ability to produce renewable power. The large-scale MSG pilot plant is already “right-sized” for the renewable energy market making rapid roll-out possible.
Western Hydrogen Limited achieved the first hydrogen milestone in cooperation with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Aux Sable Canada and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).
Western Hydrogen Limited is a privately owned company, formed in 2006. The company has exclusive rights to the Molten Salt Gasification (MSG) technology, which was developed and patented by the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.