Oxford Catalyst to use microchannel technology

By Susanne Retka Schill | November 13, 2008
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Web exclusive posted Dec. 1, 2008 at 11:16 a.m. CST

With the acquisition of Ohio-based Velocys Inc. on Nov. 20, Oxford Catalyst Group PLC is combining the catalyst technologies developed over decades at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, where Oxford Catalyst has its roots, with the Fischer-Tropsch technologies developed at the Battelle Memorial Institute, where Velocys was born.

Velocys, which spun off from Battelle in 2001, has developed a microchannel FT technology that reduces the size and cost of processing hardware, while still enabling efficient and precise temperature control in the FT reactor. Oxford Catalyst designed a highly active metal-carbide-based FT catalyst to optimize the reactor's potential.

"The combination of smaller reactor channels and a highly active catalyst can increase productivity ten-fold or more," said Jeff McDaniel, business development director at Velocys. An individual reactor measuring two feet by two feet by two feet can process 30 to 40 barrels per day (440,000 gallons to 600,000 gallons per year), he explained. The plan is to manifold 10 together into a reactor capable of processing between 4 MMgy to 6 MMgy that would measure five feet in diameter by 25 feet long.

A smaller field demonstration unit is expected to be completed by mid-2009, sized to match an existing biomass gasifier at Chicago's Gas Technology Institute. The 25 gallon-per-day unit will demonstrate the technology using syngas derived from wood chips. Once those tests are completed, the skid-mounted unit will be moved to the U.S. Air Force synthetic fuel demonstration facility under construction at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

"By working more closely together to optimize and intensify the FT process we will be able to make the production of liquid fuels from a wide variety of sources a more practical proposition," said Derek Atkinson, business development director at Oxford Catalyst. The technology promises to be a viable option for the commercial production of diesel and jet fuels from such sources as agricultural waste, municipal solid waste and landfill gas, as well as from stranded gas and coal.

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