Process Industry Solutions 8 Revolutionary Technologies of 2021
PROCESS Worldwide brings to you a snapshot of some of the most revolutionary technologies of this year. From major breakthrough technologies in steam methane reforming to solutions analyzing the composition of gas treating agents in real time, find out all the latest innovations making news here.
1. Major Breakthrough in Steam Methane Reforming
Windsor/Canada – Honeywell has partnered with ZoneFlow Reactor Technologies (ZFRT) to commercialize the ZoneFlow Reactor Technology, an innovative structured catalyst module used for the production of hydrogen. Claimed to be a revolutionary technology for steam methane reforming, it is capable of producing low-carbon hydrogen more efficiently and is also cost effective.
The ZoneFlow Reactor, a structured catalyst module that replaces conventional catalyst pellets in SMR tubes, provides far superior heat transfer and pressure drop performance. Honeywell UOP and ZFRT will cooperate in conducting reactive testing in ZFRT’s large-scale pilot plant at Université Catholique de Louvain in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. The reactive testing will validate the expected 15 % increase in throughput over conventional catalyst pellet systems. Results from the pilot plant testing are expected to be available by mid-2022.
“We see the ZoneFlow Reactor Technology as a major breakthrough in steam methane reforming,” said Laura Leonard, vice president and general manager, Honeywell UOP Process Technologies. “The much higher throughput possible with the ZoneFlow Reactors will mean significant capital savings for new SMR plants and higher productivity for existing plants. The additional opportunity to reduce the steam requirements to the steam methane reforming process will reduce its energy demands and overall impact on plant CO2 emissions.”
2. China’s Sinopec Successfully Completes Trial of Crude Oil Steam-Cracking Technology
Beijing/China – China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) has successfully tested its key project, ‘Technological Development and Industrial Application of Light Crude Oil Cracking into Ethylene,’ at Sinopec Tianjin. The technology converts crude oil directly into ethylene, propylene and other chemical products (crude-to-chemicals) and realizes the first industrial application of crude oil steam-cracking technology in China. The milestone is of great significance to the transformation and upgrading of China's petrochemical industry, also contributing to achieve ‘dual carbon’ goals.
The crude oil steam-cracking technology is one of the ‘crude-to-chemicals’ solutions which ‘skips’ the traditional crude oil refining process to directly convert crude oil into valuable chemical products like ethylene and propylene – analogous to making bread directly with wheat and eliminating the flour grinding process. This approach will greatly shorten the production process, lower production costs and significantly reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.
The technology was developed and engineered by Sinopec's Beijing Research Institute of Chemical Industry and Sinopec Engineering Group (SEG) and the industrial testing was carried out at Sinopec Tianjin. It has applied for 45 Chinese patents for invention and one international patent for invention.
At present, ExxonMobil and Sinopec are the only two companies to successfully achieve industrial application of crude oil steam-cracking technology worldwide. It's estimated that for every 1 million tons of crude oil processed by this technology, nearly 500,000 tons of chemical products can be produced, 400,000 tons of which are high-value products such as ethylene, propylene, light aromatics and hydrogen. Overall, Sinopec's technology has reached an internationally-advanced level and presents huge economic value and potential.
3. Rotating Olefins Cracker Technology to Advance Energy Transition of Olefin Production
Berlin/Germany – Technip Energies and Siemens Energy announced an exclusive agreement to jointly develop, commercialize, and license the Rotating Olefins Cracker (ROC) technology to decarbonize olefin production processes. The ROC technology employs a dynamic reactor system that replaces conventional furnaces used for pyrolysis when manufacturing light olefins — the building blocks for chemical products used in everyday materials, from packaging to polymers.
Having already validated the fundamentals of the ROC technology in laboratory testing, Technip Energies and Siemens Energy intend for the first turbomachinery prototype to enter shop testing in the first half of 2022. The ROC technology offers driver flexibility, and when driven by electric-powered motors or hydrogen-fired gas turbines, the technology leads the path to decarbonize the process used to produce light olefins. The decarbonization impact is even more significant when the electric power or hydrogen fuel is derived from renewable sources. The ROC process, once fully commercialized, is also expected to have better first pass olefins yields with similar operating costs compared to the currently commercially available technologies.
Both companies bring specialized experience to commercializing this technology: Siemens Energy contributes its expertise in turbomachinery, while Technip Energies has extensive knowledge in pyrolysis cracking to produce light olefins and process integration.
As a milestone in the commercialization of this groundbreaking technology, Technip Energies and Siemens Energy entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Cracker of the Future Consortium (COF). The MOU expresses the intent of the parties to negotiate a contract to install a hydrocarbon demonstration unit utilizing the ROC technology in a plant operated by one of the COF members.
The COF comprises major industry players Borealis (member of the OMV Group), BP, Repsol, TotalEnergies SE, Versalis (Eni), and coordinator Brightlands Chemelot Campus. The COF selected the ROC technology after assessing many electricity-based heating technologies for olefin crackers.
4. Breakthrough in Green Hydrogen Technology with Demo of World’s Highest-Current Water Electrolyzer
Ontario/Canada – Hydrogen Optimized, a subsidiary of Key DH Technologies, announced that it has completed a demonstration of the world’s highest-current water electrolyzer since the 1980s. The operation of a 50,000 ampere Ruggedcell unipolar electrolyzer represents a breakthrough in large-scale Green Hydrogen production technology and a direct pathway towards the commercialization of single electrolysis modules rated up to 100 MW. The demonstration took place at Hydrogen Optimized’s High-Current Demonstration Centre in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada.
“Today we achieved an important milestone toward our goal of deploying high-current unipolar water electrolysis technology for the world’s largest Green Hydrogen production systems,” said Andrew T.B. Stuart, President and CEO, Hydrogen Optimized. “Such very large systems will be required by major industrial, chemical, utility and energy end users to significantly reduce their carbon emissions.”
Stuart added, “We will now focus on optimizing the Ruggedcell design as we advance toward the development of a market-ready product. We will also move toward the scale-up of our technology – a doubling of the Ruggedcell current rating to 100,000 amperes. This will enable single electrolyzer modules up to 200 MW.”
5. Optimizing Heat Transfer System Performance with Predictive Analytics
Tennessee/USA – Eastman introduces Fluid Genius, a revolutionary new patent-pending product that equips engineers and operations managers with predictive insights to optimize heat transfer fluid performance. Fluid Genius combines artificial intelligence with the company’s expertise to monitor and maximize the life cycle of heat transfer fluids for a myriad of system applications.
This solution combines advanced analytics with the firm’s experience in heat transfer fluids to create an easy-to-use digital platform to help customers achieve confidence in operating their heat transfer systems and plan maintenance proactively.
Fluid Genius can predict fluid life expectancy and advise how best to extend it while avoiding costly unplanned shutdowns. According to the company, the technology provides easy access to customer fluid testing results that reveal forward-looking insights to plan proactively for maintenance. The solution works for virtually any organic heat transfer fluid system. The innovation is designed for use by plant maintenance engineers and operations managers in all processing industries, including oil and gas, chemicals, and polymer processing.
Fluid Genius enables proactive fluid maintenance with a fluid condition score, a unique measure of the overall fluid condition. The technology will also generate notifications and fluid trends as well as customized recommendations for critical action items such as system venting, inert gas blanket system installation and inspection, fluid replacement, the implementation of side-stream filtration and alerts for possible contamination.
The fluid condition score, customized recommendations generated from Fluid Genius and logging features will allow customers to optimize the performance and maintenance of their heat transfer fluid systems.
6. How Does Borealis Use a Revolutionary Technology in a Polyolefin Plant?
Antwerp/Belgium – Borealis announced that its open-innovation collaboration with Qpinch, the creators of a revolutionary and patented heat recovery technology, has passed an important milestone. The first-ever application of the unique Qpinch technology at commercial scale has been achieved upon the technical completion and start-up of a new demonstrational unit.
Located in an existing Borealis low-density polyethylene (LDPE) production location at Europe’s largest chemical cluster in the port of Antwerp (Belgium), the heat recovery unit will test the technology’s capabilities as well as its scale-up potential for Borealis plants in other parts of the world. The collaboration is especially advantageous because it allows Borealis to take major strides in its efforts to lower CO2 emissions while at the same time increasing production efficiency and maintaining cost competitiveness.
The unique and revolutionary Qpinch technology mimics the natural chemical reactions that take place in the human body in the so-called ATP/ADP cycle (in which ATP refers to adenosine triphosphate, and ADP to adenosine diphosphate).
By using a chemical process to raise the temperature of waste heat, the Qpinch technology provides a heat lift for waste heat that could otherwise not be utilized. Unlike the use of conventional heat pumps, this closed-loop process minimizes operational costs as well as electricity use. The technology is scalable from one to 50 megawatts (MW) and is therefore able to process enormous levels of industrial waste heat. The new heat recovery unit in Zwijndrecht/Antwerp alone will enable Borealis to save approximately 2,200 tons of CO2 per year, or the equivalent of the annual emissions of around 1,500 compact cars.
7. BASF to Launch New Digital Solution for Gas Treatment Processes
Ludwigshafen/Germany – BASF is all set to launch its digital solution ‘OASE digilab’ this year. The solution is aimed at further improving the efficiency of the gas treatment process by analyzing the composition of the gas treating agents in real time. Together with the startup trinamiX, a BASF Group company, the OASE team has developed a method to analyze the composition of the gas treating agents in the OASE processes in near real time. Previously, this was a laborious and time-consuming process because the samples taken from the process at the respective customers had to be sent to two special BASF laboratories in Ludwigshafen (Germany) and Wyandotte (USA) and analyzed there.
‘OASE digilab’ works with trinamiX's near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR spectroscopy) solution. It combines a mobile NIR-spectrometer with data analysis (chemometrics) to qualitatively and quantitatively determine the composition of the sample. In future, users will be able to inject the samples from their plant directly into the digilab device and receive the analysis of the components within a few seconds.
8. TechnipFMC, Petronas to Commercialize GHG Reducing Membrane Technology
Newcastle/UK – TechnipFMC has partnered with Petronas to commercialize an innovative natural gas processing membrane technology which is capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The technology is claimed to be 30 % more efficient than existing gas treatment processes and can be used in offshore as well as onshore hydrocarbon production environments.
Through the technology commercialization agreement, TechnipFMC will utilize and integrate the membrane technology licensed from Petronas as part of its production portfolio in projects worldwide, outside China. The technology removes carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide by using wetted membranes.