Oxford Catalysts Group PLC, reported that its microchannel reactor Fischer-Tropsch (FT) pilot unit is achieving good performance in phase one of the demonstration at Güssing (earlier post) and that it remains on track to secure a commercial order upon completion of the technical milestones.

The company said that the operations are demonstrating the very significant process intensification potential of its microchannel FT technology, as the unit is already producing more than 0.75 kg of FT liquids per liter of catalyst per hour—some 4 to 8 times greater productivity than conventional systems. Performance will improve further after the steam superheating section of the plant is debottlenecked at the next scheduled shutdown.

The FT demonstration, which is being managed by SGC Energia, SGPS, S.A. (SGCE), has been fully operational for a month, with the Group’s FT unit working at its full capacity of more than 900 commercial-length microchannels, and with the Güssing gasifier, the gas conditioning unit and Group’s FT unit all operating smoothly together.

The plant, with full length process and coolant channels, uses gasified woodchips from the existing Güssing gasifier as a feedstock. Achievements to date include:

  • Near isothermal reactor temperature profile;
  • Pressure drop as expected;
  • High quality synthetic fuel is being produced (alpha value >0.9);
  • Robust responsiveness to shutdowns and start-ups.

Going forward, the demonstration will be operated over a wide range of conditions, as well as for an extended steady-state run of some three months.

As the managing company in charge of the Güssing demonstration, SGCE is very pleased with the initial performance. We remain on track to place a commercial order upon completion of the technical milestones, initiating worldwide commercialization of the Group’s FT technology.

—Vianney Vales, CEO of SGCE

Oxford Catalysts is primarily focused on the emerging market for distributed smaller scale production of synthetic fuels via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis—a market that has the potential of producing as much as 25 million barrels of fuel a day.

SGCE is a Portuguese incorporated holding company that acts as the investment arm of João Pereira Coutinho, a well known Portuguese entrepreneur, in the renewable energy sector. Coutinho, through his holdings, is involved in the production of conventional biofuels and the development of next-generation bio and synthetic fuel technologies, as well as the supply of complex integrated solutions for the production of alternative energy.

Coutinho’s activities in the sector include the operation of a 125,000 ton/yr biodiesel production facility, the establishing of more than 30,000 ha of biomass energy crops in Africa, and, with partners, the development and demonstration of gasification, syngas cleanup, and syngas-to-liquids technologies. SGCE is owned by João Pereira Coutinho and his SGC Group. SGC Group is active in 13 countries and has an annual turnover of more than €1 billion.

SGCE has already secured the host site and initiated engineering activities for its first commercial synthetic fuels facility. Following successful demonstration at Güssing and completion of the technical milestones, SGCE intends to place its first commercial order with the Group.

Güssing, in South Burgenland, Austria, is a pioneering “eco-town” of around 10,000 people. It produces its entire heat, power and fuel requirement from local renewable materials, such as wood, sourced from within a 5 km radius. Since 2005, a power station based on gasification of wood chips has operated in the town, with an output of 4.5 MW heat and 2 MW electricity, for domestic and industrial consumers. The biomass gasifier at this facility will also be used to supply synthesis gas for conversion to fuels via the Group’s Fischer-Tropsch (“FT”) demonstration unit.