Recycling unwanted gas

The unwanted gas produced during offshore oil drilling could be reused as an energy source using a technology developed by a consortium of firms including an Oxford Catalysts Group subsidiary.

Velocys, the group’s US subsidiary, is providing microchannel reactors for use in an offshore gas to liquids (GTL) facility.

The technology relies on unwanted gas that is produced along with oil. Such gas is usually disposed of by flaring – a wasteful and environmentally unfriendly process that is increasingly subject to regulation or by re-injection back into the reservoir at considerable expense.

Velocys and offshore facility developers MODEC, the global engineering firm Toyo Engineering and the Brazilian State oil company Petrobras are building a microchannel GTL demonstration facility that could possibly bring the prospect of offshore GTL a step closer to reality.

The 5-10 barrel/day (bbl/d) demonstration facility will include a microchannel steam methane reformer (SMR) along with a microchannel Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reactor. The demonstration plant, which is expected to be up and running by early 2011, will be constructed by Toyo Engineering with support from MODEC and installed at the Petrobras facility in Fortaleza, Brazil.

The FT and SMR microchannel reactors will be fabricated by Kobe Steel.

Following successful demonstration, this technology is expected to be used by MODEC, Toyo and Velocys on the commercial floating production, storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs) used in the development of offshore oil and gas fields.

Tom Hickey, president at Velocys, said microchannel technology is crucial to making offshore GTL a reality.

‘Microchannel technology provides a number of advantages for offshore GTL,’ he said. ‘Not only does it accelerate SMR by 200 fold and FT reactions by 10-15 fold. It also greatly reduces the size of key pieces of equipment and makes it possible for a GTL facility to be located on a floating vessel.’

Yutaka Yamada, president and chief executive at Toyo Engineering, said the size and cost advantages of microchannel technology makes offshore GTL a practical way to produce commercially significant quantities of synthetic fuels on FPSO vessels.

Kenji Yamada, chairman and chief executive at MODEC, said the consortium hopes the project can greatly enhance the environmental performance of classic oil FPSOs.

‘It will also promote the monetisation of waste gas and introduce an opportunity for the introduction of a new generation of FPSOs in marginal gas field developments,’ he added.