By Isabella Kaminski
Following the successful demonstration of its microchannel Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reactor for small-scale production of biofuels at a biomass gasification plant in Güssing, Austria, the Oxford Catalysts Group has now received an order for two full-scale FT microchannel reactors from a Fortune 500 company.
According to Oxford Catalysts, the customer plans to use the reactors in a commercial synthetic fuels plant in the US. The plant, which has a nominal capacity of about 50 barrels per day, is expected to begin operating in 2012.
Synthetic fuels can be produced from a variety of hydrocarbon, waste and biomass feedstocks via the Fischer-Tropsch process. Because these feedstocks are often only available in relatively small quantities and at scattered locations, it is not economical to use them in large centralised production plants.
According to Oxford Catalysts, distributed production – the production of synthetic fuels in small scale plants located near the source of the feedstock and markets for the fuels – based on the use of microchannel reactors provides a way to turn this 'wasted' resource into a valuable commercial product.
This is the third commercial order received by the Oxford Catalysts Group for its microchannel FT technology. Two orders for the microchannel reactor and associated FT catalyst were received from the Portuguese incorporated company SGC Energia in December 2010 and April 2011 for use in a biofuels plant due to begin operating in Brazil in 2012.
In addition, the Group's microchannel FT and steam methane reforming (SMR) reactors have been incorporated in a skid-mounted gas to liquids (GTL) demonstration plant at the Petrobras Lubnor refinery in Fortaleza, Brazil. The demonstration plant, which is scheduled to start-up in September, will operate for approximately 9 months.
Jeff McDaniel, Director of Commercialisation at the Oxford Catalysts Group says: "Microchannel FT reactors offer substantial advantages over conventional technology and make it possible to convert a wide variety of carbon-containing wastes into clean synthetic fuels. Their high conversion efficiencies – in the range of 70% per pass – and modular nature makes them particularly useful for distributed production because capacity can be easily increased by simply 'numbering up' or linking together additional FT reactor modules. We are excited to have the opportunity to work with this major corporation to deploy our technology in its first commercial plant."