Velocys, a subsidiary of the Oxford Catalysts Group, has received the Best Innovation by an SME at the 2009 ICIS Innovation award for its Fischer-Tropsch (FT) microchannel reactor.
The group’s FT device enables the distributed production of liquid biofuels, such as diesel and jet fuel, from feedstocks including waste wood, energy crops and municipal solid waste.
Microchannel reactors, combined with FT catalysts optimised for use in them, are central to the distributed production approach.
The microchannel reactors are based on the use of microchannel process technology, a field of chemical processing that exploits rapid reaction rates by minimising heat and mass transport limitations.
Microchannel reactors are made up of small individual modules that are capable of producing more than 25bbls/day of liquid fuel.
In the modules the key process steps take place in parallel arrays of microchannels, each with diameters in the range of 0.1-5mm. Plant size can be increased by adding additional modules, which in turn can reduce capital and operating costs.
According to Derek Atkinson, business development director at Oxford Catalysts, the process could soon make small-scale biofuel production economically feasible.
‘The FT microchannel reactor provides a new way to make the production of next-generation biofuels at a local scale workable,’ he said. ‘This avoids the need to transport waste to large centralised production facilities and reduces the amount of waste going to landfill.’