There is a huge reserve of natural gas already discovered, waiting for use and distributed worldwide. The reserves are simply natural gas that is naturally formed with other gases, mostly CO2, in high enough proportion that the natural gas isn’t economically useful.
How much natural gas is up for conjecture. Contaminated gas reserves haven’t been logged or reported in great or accurate detail. But estimates range from 16% of the world’s total reserves on up to 30%. Keep in mind these are hypothetical estimates. How much gas has been drilled through and ignored could be far more than these estimates. Whatever the number is it hardly matters, it’s a huge resource if the natural gas can be cleaned up.
Brian Wang at NextBigFuture spotted the press release from Armington Technologies, LLC’s affiliate Tenoroc, LLC has developed a unique method of cleaning or separating gases using curved nozzles. More in a moment . . .
Here’s the problem today, natural gas can be cleaned by percolating it through massive tanks of absorbing liquids, a method called Acid Gas Removal (AGR), or to a far lesser used extent by membrane filtering. AGR plants occupy a very large area, limiting their use in remote land based locations and especially on offshore platforms where space is very expensive to build.
The AGR kind of process can only work for a limited time before cleansing becomes too costly. AGR plants require a great deal of heat and energy to remove the absorbed contaminants from the absorbing liquids in a process called re-boiling. The frequency of re-boiling increases with higher levels of contamination. During the re-boiling process the volatile absorbing liquids, as well as any natural gas that was absorbed, are released into the atmosphere. Those emissions are significant greenhouse gases that contribute to atmospheric pollution. The natural gas losses are like cash vented off. The absorbing liquids that are emitted must be continually replaced, adding to the processing costs.
Now some AGR type systems and newly developed membrane processes can process higher CO2 contamination levels than the conventional AGR plants. But these systems have not been selling, presumably due to the processing and capital expense. It would take a very high price guarantee to invest in this kind of natural gas cleaning technology.
The technology Tenoroc’s been developing is a curved nozzle technology. These small nozzles, with no moving parts, generate and exploit centrifugal forces that can exceed conventional spinning centrifuges, achieving improved separation levels and the phase change of rapid gas pressure changes. That divides Tenoroc’s nozzle technology into two areas, the “condensation based separation” and “gas-to-gas separation”.
Natural Gas CO2 Separation By Centrifugal Force and Phase Change.
The explanation is quite simple for an elegant idea. Envision a section of coiled spring shaped tube. The condensation based separation expansion occurs within the nozzle as one gas in a mix of gases phase changes to a liquid. Now the liquid CO2 and remaining natural gas constituents are flowed through the curve in the nozzle where centrifugal energy forces the liquid, which is heavier than the gas, to the outside wall where it exits through the outside wall outlet. That performs the gas-to-gas separation. One assumes the natural gas simply flows out the end of the spiraled curved nozzle or perhaps is bled off the inside of the tube in a working unit.
Note than centrifugal force as related to gravity can be extreme. The gravitational force generated can be in the multiple millions, depending upon the size of the nozzle, its length of arc and degrees of arc travel.
Paul Donovan, Director of Technology Development explains the market positioning and marketing effort; “We see our niche in the natural gas industry in applications where there are high levels of contamination, too high for today’s methods of cleansing natural gas. We also hope to improve or supplement cleansing on less contaminated natural gas currently being processed. Our small footprint and versatility in placement is an added bonus. The key to commercialization will be our ability to license our technology to a strategic partner that provides equipment and service to the natural gas processing industry. We intend to begin demonstrating our prototype immediately as a first step in this process.”
The company also believes the design has the potential ability to resolve the other major natural gas contaminant, hydrogen sulfide. Of particular interest is the CO2 cools releasing heat. When the cooled CO2 is used to cool the incoming gas flow the energy of compression is reused, saving on the cost of operation.
It interesting to note that the company’s initial interest wasn’t natural gas cleaning, but the market demand was noticed, the differences in CO2 and natural gas phase change temperatures used taking ingenuity into innovation for a hugely beneficial natural gas reserve gain.
Access to marketable natural gas reserves with CO2 and hydrogen sulfide cheaply removed is going to have an enormous impact. In North America the numbers are essentially hints of the potential. What’s better known are the North Sea, the Corrib Gas Field off Ireland, and the Scotian Shelf near Sable Island.
Somewhere in every oil and gas company executives are checking to see where they have natural gas that was overlooked because of contaminates and wondering when they’ll see pricing and specification on the new separation process. With the current U.S. shale gas reserve technology, the likely first adopters might be in Europe where gas is much higher priced.
Another plus is that a new volume of CO2 is going to become available for secondary and tertiary oil recovery from oil reserves.
By any description, this is a major development in the oil and gas business.
By. Brian Westenhaus