Modular Systems | AIChE

Session Chair

  • Martin Linck, Gas Technology Institute

Session Description

Recent advances in automation, communications, and systems integration are changing the way chemical, materials, and energy processes are developed and deployed. It has become far easier to source pilot and demonstration-scale facilities from dedicated third-party vendors, and these facilities are now shipped globally on a regular basis. As the capabilities of these deployable systems increase, it will become possible to scale up facilities by integrating additional modular units, rather than by increasing the size and capacity of individual vessels, reactors, and sub-systems. This session will present and discuss recent developments pertaining to the state of the art of integrated, modular, deployable facilities and their applications.

*All session and speaker information is subject to change pending finalization


1:00pm Modular Construction: An Economic Solution to Regionalized Small Scale Chemical Production Thomas Schafer, Koch Modular
1:30pm Design Considerations for Deciding Whether to Build Modularly or In-Place Adam Whalley, Zeton Inc.
2:00pm Two New Modular Systems for GTL (Gas-to-Liquids) by GTI Terry Marker, Gas Technology Institute


Modular Construction: An Economic Solution to Regionalized Small Scale Chemical Production

Thomas Schafer, Koch Modular

Economies of scale have always driven the expansion of plant production capacity in the global chemical processing industry. Plants often known as mega-scale plants, typically located in the gulf coast states within the United States of America, have historically enjoyed industry leading capital and operating costs per unit quantity produced. However, modular construction is now poised to disrupt that paradigm.

The cost economies of modular construction result from fabrication in a controlled environment, which is not subject to the site construction inefficiencies of permit delays, hot work, work at elevation, weather and regionalized high cost labor (e.g. gulf coast). Combined, these cost economies represent opportunities for schedule compression and therefore substantial improvements in time to market.

Additional cost economies are gained from using strategically located, regional, small scale production facilities which benefit from lower cost raw materials (e.g. Marcellus natural gas in the eastern United States) and minimized product transportation to end user cost.

Consider the examples of methanol and ethylene oxide processes that both require moderate to high equipment design pressures. Traditional economies of scale recognized at lower equipment design pressures do not translate to high pressure equipment, principally driven by the impact of wall thickness upon material and labor costs. These small scale designs also can realize capital efficiency via process simplification, such a simplified heat integration, as the small scale OPEX models are not as cost sensitive, compared with world scale systems.

Koch Modular Process Systems will present a brief overview of the complete plant methanol and ethylene oxide technologies we have developed together with our technology licensor partners, modular system scopes of supply, project execution schedule and strategy, and basic CAPEX and OPEX metrics at specific small scale production capacities.

Design Considerations for Deciding Whether to Build Modularly or In-Place

Adam Whalley, Zeton Inc.

The essential factors engineers and managers need to consider when deciding to build a plant modularly or in place can be broken into three main categories: appropriateness of the scale, inherent business and process characteristics, and the economic and safety risks associated with the process. Incorrectly analysing implications of the fundamental elements affecting a decision to build modularly or considering the wrong or lesser factors can lead to safety and environmental issues, poor returns on investment, and quality problems that hinder effective operation. Zeton explores the core design considerations in more depth and leverages its 30 years of experience in the design and fabrication of modular pilot, demonstration and small production plants to analyze how key factors weigh in on decisions to build modularly or in place.

Two New Modular Systems for GTL (Gas-to-Liquids) by GTI

Terry Marker, Gas Technology Institute

GTI is currently working to develop two new processes for the conversion of natural gas to liquids. Both will be done in low cost modular systems so that they are economic at relatively small scale.

The first process is called SoftOx. In this process sour (high H2S content) natural gas is converted to high sulfur liquids and clean gas. The high sulfur liquids will be sent down the pipeline with the crude oil and the clean gas will be burned to generate electricity. This project is at an early stage but has shown very promising results with as much as 18 wt. % sour liquids generated per pass from sour natural gas feeds. The first stage also produces 15% ethylene as well. A unique catalyst was discovered for the process which minimizes coking. Integrated long term testing is need to move forward in this development. The goal of this process is to monetize sour natural gas and prevent sour gas flaring.

The second process is called Cool GTL. Cool GTL can be used to convert high CO2 content natural gas, biogas streams, and gas produced from gas plants to liquids. In Cool GTL we convert high CO2 feeds to synthesis gas at a 2/1 H2/CO ratio using a novel CO2/steam reforming catalyst which has high stability. The 2/1 H2/CO synthesis gas ratio is always achieved, for a variety of levels of feed CO2 content, by adjusting the amount of water added according to the amount of CO2 in the feed. The reformer catalyst has been tested for 500 hours and shows no deactivation. The product from the reformer then goes directly to a low temperature bubbling fluid bed Fischer Tropsch reactor which makes hydrocarbon liquids from the synthesis gas. A unique catalyst formulation enables the fluid bed to make no wax. The fluid bed allows excellent temperature control. Cool GTL is also under development and still requires longer integrated testing.

Both GTL processes will be commercialized using compact, modular, cookie cutter, designs which enable low cost and fast construction.