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High octane waste: New catalyst and reactor technologies combine for efficient waste to fuel production

The successful commercial production of liquid fuels from waste by means of the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reaction depends on the marriage of two key technologies: small scale FT microchannel reactors, and highly active metal-carbide-based FT catalysts.

With the acquisition of Velocys Inc., a designer and developer of microchannel process technology, catalyst developer Oxford Catalysts, has taken a big step towards bringing these two technologies together to make small scale FT microchannel reactors a viable option for the commercial production of diesel and jet fuels. Velocys now owns, or has licences to, the largest microchannel reactor patent portfolio in the world.

Microchannel reactors are the best candidates for producing liquid fuels from sources such as agricultural waste, municipal solid waste and associated/flare gas, as well as from stranded gas, and coal. This is because they offer a way to reduce the size and cost of the chemical processing hardware, while still enabling efficient and precise temperature control, leading to higher throughput and conversion. Like the microelectronics technology that revolutionised the computer industry, microchannel technology shrinks processing hardware, while at the same time improving its performance.

To maximise the benefits they offer, microchannel reactors require an FT catalyst with activities an order of magnitude higher than conventional catalysts. The latest FT catalyst developed by Oxford Catalysts fits this bill exactly, and is specifically optimised for Velocys’ microchannel reactor design.

The FT reaction has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation fuels produced from organic waste by up to 90% compared to fossil fuels. By combining the expertise of the two companies, Oxford Catalysts hopes to refine the processes required to make the commercial production of liquid fuels from a variety of waste sources an economic and environmentally friendly proposition.

Derek Atkinson, Business Development Director, Oxford Catalysts says:

"By working more closely together to optimise and intensify the FT process we will be able to make the production of liquid fuels from a wide variety of sources a more practical proposition. This will also help governments to achieve their carbon reduction commitments."

Jeff McDaniel, Business Development Director, Velocys says:

"By combining our two innovative technologies we believe that we are now in an outstanding position to move forward towards the goal of producing liquid fuels that are cleaner and have a lower carbon footprint."

Nina Morgan | alfa
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