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A new way to obtain hydrogen from heavy oil

By Gerald Parkinson |

The volume of heavy, sour crude oil processed by North American refineries is steadily increasing, and along with it a commensurate demand for hydrogen to upgrade that oil. A steam-reforming process that would allow refiners to produce their own H2 from heavy oil and residuum is being developed by TDA Research, Inc. (Wheat Ridge, Colo.; www.tda.com). Currently, refiners make a lot of their own hydrogen by steam-reforming methane or coke gasification. However, while natural gas is now plentiful and inexpensive in the U.S., naphtha is the heaviest feed that can be processed by conventional steam-reforming, says Girish Srinivas, principal engineer for TDA. He adds that TDA’s process will be less expensive than coke or heavy oil gasification, except for very large plants. Srinivas explains that TDA’s process converts heavy oil and residuum to a hydrogen-rich syngas with a H2-to-CO ratio of 4–6, using a conventional nickel steam-reforming catalyst. However, unlike conventional steam reforming, the process uses a fluidized-bed rather than a fixed-bed reactor, and is in the form of a loop with two reactors: one for reforming and one for catalyst regeneration. Heavy oil/residuum and steam are fed into the reforming reactor…
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