(228e) Compact, Mobile Synthetic Fuel Unit | AIChE

(228e) Compact, Mobile Synthetic Fuel Unit


Modern military operations require a steady, reliable supply of liquid fuel to keep armored vehicles rolling and field generators running. Often, this fuel can not be easily sourced in the theater of action and must be brought from the elsewhere. The logistical challenge of importing millions of gallons of fuel into a hostile environment can be daunting. The U.S. Department of Defense has recognized this difficulty and they are starting to explore alternative fuel sourcing strategies, including truck transportable synthetic fuel units to produce much of the required fuel in the theater of action from locally available energy resources. Sufficiently reducing equipment size to fit in truck transportable containers requires a new approach to reactor design, which is offered by microchannel process technology.

The concept of producing synthetic fuels in compact units hinges on the ability to economically scale-down reaction hardware while maintaining sufficient capacity. Systems based on microchannel process technology have the potential to allow applications like mobile synthetic fuel units by greatly reducing the size of chemical processing hardware. Reactors using this technology are characterized by parallel arrays of microchannels, with typical dimensions in the 0.010-inch to 0.200-inch range. Processes are intensified by reducing heat and mass transfer distances, thus decreasing transfer resistance between process fluids and channel walls. Overall system volumes are typically reduced 10- to 100-fold or more compared with conventional hardware.

For the mobile fuel unit programs, microchannel technology is being applied to the two main reactor sections in a synthetic fuel process: 1) synthesis gas production from natural gas, and 2) Fischer-Tropsch reaction to convert this synthesis gas into waxes which are subsequently processed into the high quality fuels needed to run vehicles and generators. This presentation will show the compact, mobile synthetic fuel unit concept developed by Velocys and Mustang Engineering under a congressionally funded project overseen by the U.S. Department of Defense Tank and Automotive Command (TACOM). The unit presented will be a 15,000 gallons per day facility capable of transforming locally available sources of natural gas into a synthetic fuel. In addition to the conceptual design, data from laboratory experiments on microchannel Fischer-Tropsch reactors will be included to show the viability of producing fuel in this manner.