InterviewCorrected: US Primus commissioning syngas-to-gasoline demo plant

21 June 2013 05:53  [Source: ICIS news]

Correction: In the ICIS story headlined "US Primus commissions syngas-to-gasoline demo plant" dated 21 June 2013, please read the headline as "US Primus commissioning ..." instead of ... "US Primus commissions". Please read in the first paragraph ... is commissioning ... instead of ... has commissioned. Please read in the first paragraph ... 100,000 gal/year instead of 10,000 gal/year ... A corrected story follows.

By Tracy Dang

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US Primus Green Energy is commissioning its STG+ syngas-to-gasoline demonstration plant in Hillsborough, New Jersey, which is expected to begin operations later this fall to produce 100,000 gal/year of fuel, an executive said on Thursday.

Primus has a 1 litre/hour pilot plant at the site that produces 93-octane gasoline and chemical samples but uses it for testing purposes only, said George Boyajian, vice president of business development.

The company is discussing financing options with potential partners to build its first commercial plant, with groundbreaking targeted for 2014, Boyajian said during an interview.

The plant is expected to produce 25m gal/year of fuel beginning in 2016.

Syngas is a fuel gas mixture composed primarily of hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO). It can be used as an intermediate to reform methane-rich natural gas or biomass and produce ammonia or methanol.

Early gas-to-liquids (GTL) technologies include Fischer-Tropsch (FT), which converts syngas into a hydrocarbon mixture that requires conversion, separation and purification.

Another common technology – methanol-to-gas (MTG) – converts syngas to methanol, into a mixture of methanol and the intermediate dimethyl ether (DME) and then into gasoline and water.

However, Primus’s STG+ process combines previous methanol synthesis and MGT processes into a single-loop process that converts syngas directly to gasoline without producing intermediate liquids, Boyajian said.

“Syngas is produced with a H2-CO ratio of 2.1:1, and it is cleaned to remove carbon dioxide [CO2] and sulphur,” he said.

The STG+ technology takes the syngas through a catalytic, thermochemical process of four reactors – methanol synthesis, DME synthesis, gasoline synthesis and then gasoline treatment – before the mixture is separated into water and gasoline.

Primus said its technology minimised complexity, improves product quality and increases yield. The STG+ process converts more than 35% of syngas by mass into liquid fuels and more than 70% of by mass of natural gas.

In addition, it can be modified with different catalysts or operating conditions to produce jet fuel, diesel and high-value chemicals, Boyajian said.

“So we don’t need both trains to produce all the different products,” he said. “We have, most arguably, the most cost-effective system, and we’re making gasoline at about $2/gal. That’s when natural gas costs about $5/mmBtu, and crude is trading at $60-65/bbl.”

For the commercial plant, Primus plans to buy syngas “over the fence”, which could reduce capital costs by a third or a half of plants that use Fischer-Tropsch, MTG or other GTL technologies.

However, because Primus’s end product is a premium, 93-octane, drop-in gasoline, it will command the same prices as traditional gasoline produced at traditional refineries, said Tomi Maxted, a spokesman for the company.

“The main benefit here is that the lower [capital expenses and operating expenses] is attractive to investors, and it also provides the gas-to-liquids and natural gas industries with a more attractive GTL technology,” he added.

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By: Tracy Dang
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