(142a) Methaforming Produces Gasoline from Naphtha and Methanol at 1/3 the Current Cost | AIChE

(142a) Methaforming Produces Gasoline from Naphtha and Methanol at 1/3 the Current Cost


Sims, S. - Presenter, NGTS North America

Produces Gasoline from Naphtha and Methanol at 1/3 the Current Cost

By Stephen Sims, Iosif Lishchiner, Olga Malova

New Gas Technologies – Synthesis LLC, USA/Russia

Corresponding author: Stephen Sims, s.sims@ngts.us


Methaforming removes sulfur and converts naphtha and
methanol into a high-octane, low-benzene gasoline blendstock with yields and
octane comparable to isomerization + CCR reforming.  Methaforming uses a
proprietary zeolite catalyst in a process flow similar to hydrotreating.

This one-step process replaces naphtha desulfurization,
reforming, isomerization and benzene removal thereby reducing capital and
operating costs to 1/3 of the current best alternative.

The first commercial Methaformer will startup by June 2018.
The 150 BPD (6 k tpa) unit will process a variety of naphtha feedstocks. With a
projected uplift of >$23/B ($200/ton), it will validate the predicted yields
and scale-up factors.

An existing idle hydrotreater or reformer can be converted
into a commercial Methaformer at very low cost.

Main Applications of Methaforming:

1. Building a Methaformer instead of a CCR reformer: worth
$220 million net present value (NPV) for a 20 K BPD (860 K tpa) unit.

2. Converting semi-regen reformer: worth $50 million/year at
a retrofit cost of $20 million for a 20 K BPD (860 K tpa) unit.

3. Instead of isom: worth $10 million/year with $20 million
lower capex for a 10 K BPD (380 K tpa) unit.

4. Upgrade raffinate from aromatics extraction: upgrade 2 K
BPD (88 K tpa) worth $18 million/year at a capex of $30 million.


Methaforming Process and Economics

Figure 1 Methaforming: One-Step Conversion

The 1/3 cost can be accomplished because Methaforming is a
one-step process.  Naphtha and methanol go through a unit similar to a
hydrotreater at modest pressure and temperature. The products are like
reformate: a high-octane gasoline blendstock with relatively low sulfur, and
importantly, <1.3% benzene. Just like a reformer it produces some light ends,
and releases hydrogen. And by desulfurizing, there is H2S in the
overhead. The inexpensive proprietary zeolite catalyst does not contain
precious metals.

The capital and operating costs of Methaforming are
comparable to those of a hydrotreater. The process flow in which methanol is
used instead of hydrogen, looks like that of a hydrotreater without a recycle
compressor. The yields are comparable to a CCR reformer except that most of the
benzene is converted to toluene and half the methanol becomes water.

Figure 2 Methaforming vs Reforming: Simpler
and Cheaper


Methaforming costs are so much lower because a Methaformer
replaces four units. The Methaformer charges naphtha, typically full range
naphtha, and reduces sulfur by 90%. It replaces the reformer, and because of
low benzene production, avoids the need for any benzene reduction steps.
Methaforming also effectively processes light naphtha, thereby eliminating the
isomerization unit. In this way capital and operating costs are reduced to
about 1/3.

Figure 3 Economics of Methaformer vs Traditional Reforming
Suite (HDS+CCR+isom)

The economics for a grassroots 20 K BPD Methaformer are
shown in the first column of Figure 3. The first row is for the yields
including fuel gas. The next rows are for other operating expense and finally
the estimated capex for inside battery limits (ISBL) only. The last row of the Methaforming
column shows the total 20 year NPV for a Methaformer is $1.3 billion. The next column
shows the same values for the alternative of HDS + CCR + isom. The last column
shows the difference between Methaforming and the alternative process.

The Methaformer is slightly better in yields at $4 million/year.
Opex is $14 million/year lower because less equipment is needed. The capex is
$106 million less for ISBL. This gives a NPV difference of $220 million.

Figure 3 shows that by using Methaforming yields are
comparable to the CCR reformer while the operating costs and capex are much

Because few grassroots reformers are being built, the largest
market for Methaformers is in replacing existing semi-regen reformers.

Figure 4 Economics for Upgrade Semi-regen Reformer to

Figure 4 uses the same format as Figure 3 to show the
economics. Focusing on the Delta column, Methaformer yields generate over $50
million/year higher than for semi-regen reforming. It costs $20 million to
convert to a Methaformer. As a result the Methaformer shows over $400 million NPV.
Because a Methaformer is similar to a hydrotreater, the unit that is converted
is the naphtha hydrotreater in front of the reformer. 

Methaforming is Flexible

Methaforming is very flexible so it generates several
additional economic opportunities.

FCC olefins may be used to replace the methanol in a
Methaformer. While refinery propylene is usually recovered and upgraded, many
refineries leave the ethylene (C2=) in the fuel gas stream. There is
a 500 $/mt uplift for ethylene in a Methaformer thereby increasing uplift on
naphtha by over $11/B ($100/mt).  

Methaforming gives the opportunity to lower sulfur while
increasing octane for the natural gasoline from a natural gas liquids (NGL)
plant and for cracked naphthas.

Figure 5 Economics for Methaforming Light Virgin (LVN)
Naphtha with C2= vs Isomerization

There is keen interest in the US and Western Europe for
processing LVN because the higher anticipated octane requirements drive consideration
of isomerization with expensive recycle. Processing LVN with C2=
shows over $35/bbl uplift ($330/mt). In a side-by-side comparison, Methaforming
with C2= shows $10 million/yr better yields giving a $110 million
better NPV.

Figure 6 Economics for Grassroots Methaformer to Process
Raffinate and FCC Dry Gas 

Refiners with low octane streams blended to gasoline (e.g.
raffinate from aromatics extraction) are interested in Methaforming. For a 2 K
BPD (88k tpa) stream of raffinate, Methaforming with the added benefit of C2=,
gives a 1/2-year payback and $160 million NPV for this small unit from uplift
of $42/B ($350/mt).

Process Development and Testing

Figure 7 Pilot Plants


The Methaforming catalyst and process were developed, and the
operating parameters optimized, in 3 pilot plants with over 7000 hours of
processing. Our latest and largest pilot plant started up in 2015 and has a 2
liter reactor and capacity of a 38 l/d (0.23 BPD). Based on the extensive pilot
plant testing, we can reliably predict the results for any naphtha.

A major Russian refiner who plans to build an 11 K BPD (470
K tpa) Methaformer for start-up in 2020 has funded a new, larger and more
sophisticated pilot plant to confirm the design. This pilot plant, to be located
in Moscow at the High Temperature Research Institute, will start up in October

Its configuration will be a 3-stage 9 L reactor with a
capacity of up to 2 BPD (90 tpa) designed for continuous operation and testing
of the products. It will include enhanced features to enable co-feeds of
methanol and/or other alcohols of varying concentrations, and olefin gases such
as in FCC dry gas. Two additional features will address stricter gasoline
specifications: on-purpose hydrotreating capability to increase desulfurization
from 90 to 99% and benzene recycle for <1% in the product Methaformate.

The NGTS intellectual property includes 4 Russian patents
with PCT coverage that are entering the international phase, plus 2 recent PCT
applications. The catalyst is produced by an experienced manufacturer of
zeolite catalysts and is protected by trade secrets.

Figure 8 First Commercial Methaformer

The first commercial Methaformer is undergoing
pre-commissioning with startup by June 2018. The 150 BPD (6 k tpa) unit will
process a variety of naphtha feedstocks. With a projected uplift of >$23/B ($200/ton),
it will validate the predicted yields and scale-up factors.

Because of Methaforming’s similarity to the hydrotreating
process, there is a low-cost and high return opportunity by converting an
existing idle hydrotreater or reformer. The basic cost for this might be as low
as $5 million, mostly for the methanol handling facilities. Because most refiners
have some low octane naphtha being blended to gasoline, those with an idle
process unit have a very low-cost opportunity for upgrading that stream.

Figure 9 Diagram of Skid Mounted Methaformer

Many potential customers are interested in quick delivery,
low-cost skid mounted units. We have completed the detailed mechanical design
for 2 versions. The contractor will build these in Moscow at a fixed price of $900
K for a 150 BPD (6K tpa) unit and $2 million for a 460 BPD (20 K tpa) unit.
These can be delivered within 6 months and will include all of the equipment
necessary inside battery limit (ISBL). The outside battery limit is dependent
on existing customer facilities. Much of this may already be available or can
be available on an incremental cost basis.

Our first customer in the CIS will soon order a 460 BPD (20
K tpa) unit.


Methaforming upgrades low octane streams by $15-35/B ($130-330/mt)
thereby producing gasoline from naphtha and methanol at 1/3 the cost of current
technology for new units. It can generate over $50 million/year of yield
improvements by converting an existing semi-regen reformer.


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