Coolbrook eyes ’24 delivery for commercial-scale e-furnace

Al Greenwood

10-Mar-2023

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Coolbrook is targeting a 2024 delivery of a commercial-scale electric furnace, and it has attracted the interest of chemical companies, which will assess how a pilot unit could perform for a cracker.

Coolbrook and its major partner in the electric furnace, ABB, expect that their 2024 date will mark the first delivery of commercial-scale electric furnace that will produce high-temperature heat for an industrial customer.

HOW COOLBROOK’S FURNACE WORKS
Coolbrook is developing the RotoDynamic Reactor (RDR) for crackers and the RotoDynamic Heater (RDH) for industrial heat.

The furnace works by having an electric motor rotate an axis, on which are attached blades, said Joonas Rauramo, CEO of Coolbrook. He made his comments in an interview with ICIS during the CERAWeek by S&P Global energy conference.

The blades accelerate the gas inside the furnace to supersonic speeds, he said. A diffuser then slows down the gas, creating a shock-wave reaction.

That reaction converts the kinetic energy generated by the electric motor into the thermal energy required to convert the hydrocarbons into ethylene and other olefins.

The furnace would require 1 megawatt (MW) to produce 1 tonne of ethylene, similar to the power consumption of other electric crackers (e-crackers) being developed.

However, the inner workings of Coolbrook’s furnaces are different from how a traditional cracker works and how some of the proposed e-crackers will operate.

The e-cracker being considered by Dow and Shell would rely on electric coils, which presents challenges developing a material that can withstand the high temperatures required in a cracker.

BASF, SABIC and Linde announced in September 2022 that they started construction of a demonstration plant for large-scale e-cracker. However, it is unclear how the furnace will operate.

COOLBROOK’S PROGRESS SO FAR
Since December 2022, Coolbrook has been running a 1MW pilot plant at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Gelleen, the Netherlands.

This spring, the company plans to start running inert gases through the furnace at temperatures of 650-1,000 degrees Celsius, Rauramo said.

By the third quarter, the company plans to run hydrocarbons through the pilot plant, he said.

PARTNERS
Coolbrook and ABB signed an agreement that expands that two companies’ partnership. Under it, ABB will provide its know-how in automation, electrification and digitalisation.

For ABB, the partnership gives it an opportunity to integrate  its motors, drives and other packages and equipment into the RotoDynamic Reactor, said Colin Ward, senior vice president, ABB process automation, chemicals and refining.

Earlier in March, Coolbrook signed a strategic partnership with Linde Engineering for the RotoDynamic Reactor to be used in crackers.

SABIC has agreed to assess Coolbrook’s pilot project in the Netherlands.

Braskem also will cooperate to assess the pilot project.

BENEFITS OF THE TECHNOLOGY
Coolbrook’s RotoDynamic Reactor has less than a 10th of the footprint of a traditional reactor, making it easier to fit on existing brownfield sites, Rauramo said. Plus, the smaller size cuts down on capital costs.

Rauramo also noted savings in operating expenses and water consumption.

Meanwhile, the RDR can increase ethylene yield by 20%, he said.

The RotoDynamic Heater generates process heat for chemical plants and refineries as well as for steel plants and cement producers. The heater can reach temperatures of 1,700 degrees Celsius.

Rauramo said efficiency for the heater is more than 90%.

Because these furnaces can be powered by renewable electricity, the RDR can eliminate CO2 emissions from cracker furnaces, and the RDH can eliminate emissions from process-heat furnaces used for other chemical and refining processes.

CERAWeek ends on Friday.

Interview article by Al Greenwood

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