June 8, 2023 [Chemical Engineering]- Hydrogen is a clear piece of the decarbonization puzzle for many industrial sectors, including petroleum refining, but a major challenge lies in the storage and long-distance transport of hydrogen in its gaseous form.
One proposed solution is the use of liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC) technologies, wherein hydrogen is chemically combined into a liquid carrier for easier transport and storage, but LOHC requires reactors and other equipment that can be complex and expensive to set up. A new LOHC technology recently launched by Honeywell, based on Honeywell UOP technologies, enables the use of existing infrastructure at petroleum refineries for LOHC, which significantly decreases the capital investment required to adopt LOHC processes when compared with constructing new facilities.
The new LOHC technology draws from established UOP technologies for aromatics saturation and naphtha reforming, both of which can achieve very high hydrogen selectivities, explains Kelly Seibert, vice president and general manager for Honeywell UOP Process Technologies for Refining and Petrochemicals. “The LOHC solution is based on the Honeywell UOP Toluene Hydrogenation process, in which toluene and clean hydrogen are reacted to form methylcyclohexane (MCH) in the presence of a proprietary catalyst. MCH can be transported using the same carrier vessels and infrastructure that are currently used to transport gasoline. At the import destination, the imported methylcyclohexane is dehydrogenated in the presence of a proprietary catalyst via the Honeywell UOP Methylcyclohexane Dehydrogenation process. High-purity hydrogen is released, which is then distributed to the hydrogen users, and the resultant toluene is ready for re-hydrogenation,” says Seibert. According to Seibert, existing refinery processes, especially reforming units, can undergo minor revamps to be repurposed for LOHC, irrespective of the original licensor for the units.
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