(210b) Microchannel Fischer-Tropsch for Waste-to-Liquids

Authors: 
McDaniel, J., Velocys Inc.
Litt, R., Velocys, Inc.
Weidert, D., Velocys, Inc.
Kilanowski, D., Velocys, Inc.


Liquid fuels derived from biomass resources will play an important role in our energy future. One large-scale, untapped source of biomass is that contained in municipal solid waste (MSW) and related streams, such as construction and demolition (C&D) waste. Utilizing this source of biomass offers three advantages, 1) an infrastructure system already exists for collection, 2) the cost of disposal is a potential revenue stream, and 3) conversion of this biomass to biofuels avoids its current fate ? decomposition to methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The amount of available biomass from MSW and C&D in the U.S. totals over 140 million dry tonnes annually, representing a potential to generate nearly 6.5 billion gallons of synthetic diesel.

The key to unlocking this resource is a modular, fuel flexible process that can attain breakthrough economics at the scale of individual MSW collection sites, such as landfills. The concept of producing Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuels in compact units hinges on the ability to economically scale-down reaction hardware while maintaining sufficient capacity. By greatly reducing the size and cost of chemical processing hardware, systems based on microchannel process technology hold the potential to do just this. Reactors using this technology are characterized by parallel arrays of microchannels, with typical dimensions in the 0.01 to 0.2 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.

Recently, Velocys Inc. and Taylor Biomass Energy developed a waste-to-liquids process concept that combines the following: 1) an advanced MSW sorting and separating facility, 2) a fluidized bed gasifier to convert the biomass components into synthesis gas, and 3) a microchannel Fischer-Tropsch unit to convert the resulting synthesis gas into liquid fuel. Taylor Biomass Energy, a subsidiary of Taylor Global Recycling, a leader in the field of separating waste streams into their component parts, addresses the first two critical process steps ? sorting and gasification. The gasification technology, an indirectly heated process, is a result of decades of development and testing. Velocys provides the third critical processing step, a microchannel Fischer-Tropsch synthesis unit that produces ultra-clean synthetic hydrocarbons.

The ultimate product from Fischer-Tropsch based waste-to-liquids facilities is a superior fuel ? synthetic diesel - that can be used as a one-to-one replacement for petroleum-derived diesel or jet fuel. In fact, the very high Cetane Number and low sulfur content of synthetic fuels improve engine performance for many applications.

This presentation will discuss the specifics of a proposed 300 tons per day demonstration facility that can produce annually over 750,000 gallons of synthetic diesel, 2,750 tons of naphtha, and 5,500 tons of valuable wax. The discussion will also include information about the technical status of the microchannel FT technology.