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Comment Processing & Handling

Highly selective adsorbent tackles complex sulfur species

By Mary Page Bailey |

To meet strict sulfur specifications and reduce emissions, amine scrubbing and caustic treatment are frequently used to remove hydrogen sulfide from gas and liquid streams, but these methods are not effective for handling more complex organo-sulfur compounds, such as thiophenes and disulfides. SulfaTrap LLC (Arvada, Colo.; www.sulfatrap.com) has developed a new adsorbent consisting of highly dispersed base metals that uses unique surface groups to remove sulfur species via strong molecular interactions. These interactions are two to three times greater than those observed with typical physical adsorbents that remove sulfur species via Van der Waals forces, enabling a higher selectivity for a larger range of sulfur species, even in the presence of moisture or unsaturated hydrocarbons, according to Gokhan Alptekin, managing director of SulfaTrap. “Because these surface sites do not bind the sulfur through a covalent bond, it is easy to regenerate the sorbent and release the adsorbed sulfur groups from the surface by applying a relatively small change in the chemical potential. The process utilizes a mild temperature swing to regenerate the sorbent with very high energy efficiency,” explains Alptekin.

The operation of SulfaTrap’s process (diagram) is very similar to that of molecular-sieve zeolites used in regenerable dehydration applications. A minimum of two sorbent vessels are used; one bed is in operation while the other is regenerated. Sorbent regeneration involves raising the bed temperature by 250°C and a warm purge-gas stream supplies heat to the beds. Captured sulfur compounds are recovered and oxidized into SO2. The technology has been piloted at four demonstration sites, the largest for a 75-barrel-per-day mixed-butane stream.

“We have shown the efficacy of the technology in desulfurizing C4 mixtures, C4–C8 condensates and bioethanol, as well as high-value biochemicals, such as alpha pinene,” says Alptekin. He mentions that with minor setup modifications, the system can also be used to treat natural gas and biogas. SulfaTrap expects to deliver its first commercial-scale system in early 2019.

adsorbent

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