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Novel and efficient process to recover valuable by-products from natural gas

Natural gas is an important feedstock for energy production worldwide and its relevance is expected to continue to increase in the coming years. In addition to the energy industry, natural gas plays an important role in several industrial processes as utility or chemical feedstock. Natural gas found in wells contains various contaminants and by-products and needs to be conditioned before use. For example, to transport natural gas in pipelines a given water dew point and hydrocarbon dew point must be ensured, for LNG production all condensable components must be removed prior to the cryogenic process. Also, combustion requires the removal of inert components to achieve certain heating values. However, some of these by-products e.g. helium, heavy hydrocarbons, CO2, etc. are also very valuable. Recovering these by-products from natural gas can represent a major economic benefit. Helium, for example, is a highly valuable component that is used for superconductors and aerospace industry, to name a few. Heavy hydrocarbons serve as basic chemicals in the chemical industry or as liquid fuel. In addition, the separated CO2 from natural gas can be used for several industrial applications, e.g. enhanced oil recovery.

Linde Engineering recently developed a novel and efficient membrane/PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorption) hybrid process to recover helium with high purities and yields from a gas with small concentrations of helium without using cryogenic technology. This process requires the removal of hydrocarbons and CO2 from the natural gas prior to the membrane. BASF has vast experience in removing heavy hydrocarbons from natural gas by temperature swing adsorption (TSA). BASF also has extensive know-how in the removal of CO2 from gaseous feedstocks using amine-based technology.

Combining the novel membrane/PSA process developed by Linde Engineering and the advanced hydrocarbon and amine solution technology offered by BASF, an efficient, superior, and pioneering hybrid process can be developed to recover several by-products

from natural gas in a non-cryogenic way. Using a hydrocarbon recovery unit (HRU) will also increase the performance of the membrane unit by protecting it from the heavy hydrocarbons that are being removed. Significant savings in CAPEX and OPEX can be envisioned along with additional revenue streams from the recovered by-products.

This novel and efficient process represents an elegant and economic path to recover valuable by-products from natural gas without using the energetically demanding cryogenic technology.

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