Team 101: Modular Distributed Gas-to-Liquid Methane Conversion

Team 101: Modular Distributed Gas-to-Liquid Methane Conversion

By 2050, energy demand worldwide is forecasted to increase by 50%. To sustain this growth, it will be crucial to invest in new sources of energy and to maximize the efficiency of existing energy sources such as fossil fuels. The ongoing challenge of climate change has emphasized the need for advancements in technologies and production methods in industry applications to eliminate or significantly reduced carbon emission.

Handling natural methane gas from stranded oil production is currently a prevalent climate issue worldwide. This stranded methane gas cannot be economically collected or stored due to its remote location. Therefore, large manufacturing sites are forced to burn the produced methane gas through on-site flares. Flaring is the process of initiating a controlled burn at an oil well head to combust the methane into CO2. Estimates report that approximately 30% of associated natural gas is flared for disposal, which equates to 111,000 metric tons of generated carbon dioxide per year.

A potential solution to this problem is to convert the natural gas to liquid petroleum products that can be easily stored on site and later transported. One method to achieve this is through the “Fischer-Tropsch process.” The process generates long chain liquid hydrocarbons such as propane, gasoline and diesel, as well as other products from carbon monoxide and hydrogen (syngas). A water gas shift reaction can be used to generate hydrogen from the methane feedstock.

The objective of this Chemical Engineering Senior Design Project is to design a profitable process of converting natural gas into liquid petroleum products utilizing modular manufacturing techniques. Modular manufacturing is the process of creating small-scale infrastructure that can be assembled and installed directly at the well head with a numbering-up approach to suit production capacity.  This allows economy of scale. Ideally, these modular GTL units can be manufactured off site then transported and assembled at well heads. They can then be redeployed to alternative sites as production capacity decreases, to optimize the overall profitability of the modules.

Warrick Smart, Allison Fox, Zachary Bauer, Anne Schloss & Aubrey (Belk) Malowany

Robert Wandell, Ph.D.