26 November 2009

Clean Conversion – Lurgi Meets the Challenge

Lurgi developed the bioliq® process together with the PTKA

The efficient and environmentally compatible production of clean fuels and the use of alternative sources of energy are the major challenges of our time. Lurgi, a company of the Air Liquide Group, is addressing these challenges with clean conversion processes using oxygen and hydrogen.

The supply of clean energy and chemical building blocks to meet the projected increase from approximately 12 billion tons of oil equivalent today to about 15 billion tons of oil equivalent in 2020 represents one of the world’s major challenges. Hence, the main ambition of the industry is to achieve the sustainability targets while overcoming the constraints resulting from limited oil reserves in a technically and economically sound manner. These solutions will be based on a deeper conversion of crude oil and will utilize other feedstock material such as natural gas, coal and biomass in order to adapt to the local feedstock availability in the different geographic regions.

Lurgi is a globally leading technology company operating in the fields of process engineering and plant contracting. Lurgi’s core business is the marketing, engineering, construction and commissioning of plants and plant units. It covers the whole value chain of engineering and project-related services.

The end product market for Lurgi’s business is the global market for fuels and petrochemicals. The production of petrochemical products and fuels involves various intermediate process steps. Furthermore, the end products can be produced from a variety of feedstocks. So far, the most important feedstock in the market has been crude oil. Feedstocks such as natural gas and coal are currently gaining market share while others such as biomass are expected to play an important role in the future.

The growing attractiveness of alternative and renewable energy sources has various reasons. Firstly, world energy consumption is expected to continue to rise over the next 25 years in line with the expected global GDP growth. Secondly, other fossil fuels such as natural gas and renewable feedstocks are much cleaner and available in larger quantities. Lastly, crude oil resources are becoming increasingly scarce and processing costs are rising due to deteriorating oil quality and higher exploration costs. The crude oil price, hence, is one of the main drivers for the attractiveness of alternative feedstocks.

Lurgi is focusing on a selected number of seminal technologies that benefit from the declining interest in crude oil and form a well-balanced portfolio in terms of the technology life cycle and the type of feedstock. The focus mainly lies on the intermediate product Syngas.

Refinery Technologies
The market for refineries is expected to grow substantially in future. The relative significance of oil will decline, but the absolute oil production volume will still grow to meet the rising energy demand. Furthermore, the demand for refineries is triggered by a trend towards substitution of smaller by larger refineries and a latent need to revamp older refineries. Lurgi uses its know-how in this segment to offer selective refinery technologies.

Petrochemical Intermediates and End Products
Lurgi offers a number of technologies for the production of selective petrochemical intermediates used for the production of a variety of end products such as plastics, rubbers or fuels. Most of these technologies are based on alternative feedstocks.

In this segment, Lurgi builds on several decades of experience having realized a large number of plants. Besides its expertise in this field Lurgi also commands technologies offering certain technological advantages such as its proprietary MTP® technology, a process for generating propylene directly from methanol.

Gas Production and Purification
As oil supply is stagnating, natural gas will be the most important energy source in the mid-term. In addition, coal gasification will gain importance as countries with large coal reserves (e.g. China) will satisfy their hydrocarbon demand by exploiting that coal. Both developments will lead to an increased demand for natural gas purification technologies. Before using gas in the downstream process, synthesis gas (Syngas) has to be produced from the resources available, mainly using various reforming processes. Lurgi offers the complete range of modern reforming technologies.

Lurgi has extensive experience and can present reference projects for most of its technologies. It boasts an excellent market position regarding most of these technologies holding approximately 50 percent in the market for OmniSulf® – an overall natural gas treatment concept that is based on several proprietary processes – and slightly less for Rectisol®, the only process taking care of all raw gas contaminants specific for coal and oil gasification.

Gas-to-Chemicals
This segment covers both, an upstream and a downstream step. In the upstream step, Syngas is produced from the feedstocks coal, natural gas, biomass, and stranded gas. Syngas opens the door to numerous downstream products like methanol, propylene and ammonia. With the Lurgi technologies, these products can be further upgraded to high-quality end products such as fertilizers or plastics.

Technology leaps have drastically curbed production costs in recent years and an end to this development is not in sight. Furthermore, as little as 5 percent of the extracted gas is channeled into the production of petrochemicals and fuels thus constituting a high and so far unused potential as a clean, economic and future-oriented alternative to oil. For Lurgi, especially the methanol production is highly attractive.

Biomass
Fossil energy carriers are indispensable for the time being. However, to sustainably secure the world’s energy supply, technologies operated on renewable resources are vitally essential. In order not to compete with the food chain, Lurgi developed the bioliq® process for the production of second-generation biofuels in cooperation with Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe. The bioliq® process converts plant residues from agriculture and forestry to valuable designer fuels. These fuels are clean, environmentally compatible and offer better performance than petroleum-based fuels and they can be specifically adapted to the demands of modern engine technology; CO2 emissions are significantly curbed and the dependence on fossil energy sources is overcome.

A life without fossil raw materials is as yet inconceivable for many. But it is a matter of fact that future generations will have to do without them. The bioliq® technology is a first step – and this is only just the beginning.

In conclusion it can be said that Lurgi’s technology portfolio targets a high energy efficiency of the individual processes and a maximum utilization of raw materials with a focus on the production of environmentally friendly products. The main emphasis is on the use of alternative raw materials such as biomass.

Source: Oil & Gas Eurasia, press release, 2009-10-09.

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