Process for the production of synthesis gas

In a recent dispatch, now accessible via:

Texaco Photosynthetic CO2 Recycling | Research & Development; we made report of the: "United States Patent 4,545,872 - Method for Reducing Carbon Dioxide to Provide a Product; 1985; Assignee: Texaco, Incorporated, NY; Abstract: A process and apparatus for reducing carbon dioxide to at least one useful product (and, which product is) methanol (and/or) methane";



we indicated in closing remarks that Texaco's seemingly-intensive mid-1980's work on the development of Carbon Dioxide-recycling technologies - the above report was only the most recent of several we've made documenting their achievements in that field in that time frame - was actually related to CO2-utilization science which Texaco had developed many decades before, in the years immediately subsequent to WWII.

Further, their 1980's development of processes that would convert Carbon Dioxide into, among other things, Methane, would actually, if implemented, serve to "enable" their post-WWII CO2-recycling technology.

Comment, with additional references, is inserted within and follows our excerpts from the initial link to:

"United States Patent 2,448,290 - Process for the Production of Synthesis Gas

Date: August, 1948

Inventor: Harold Atwell, NY

Assignee: The Texas Company, NYC

Abstract: This invention relates to a continuous method of manufacturing water gas involving the reaction of a gaseous hydrocarbon with carbon dioxide and steam so as to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

(Note: Don't be misled by variances in terminology. As indicated by the wording of the Title and, then, of the Abstract, and, as explained via:

Water gas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, wherein we learn that: "Water gas is a synthesis gas containing carbon monoxide and hydrogen";

and, via:

Syngas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, wherein we're told that: "Syngas (from synthesis gas) is the name given to a gas mixture that contains varying amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen (and which is used as an intermediate) in creating synthetic natural gas (SNG) and for producing ammonia or methanol. Syngas is also used as an intermediate in producing synthetic petroleum for use as a fuel or lubricant via the Fischer-Tropsch process and the Mobil methanol to gasoline process";

the terms "water gas" and "synthesis gas" are closely-related, if not in essence synonymous; and, they label gas mixtures that can be catalytically condensed into gaseous and liquid hydrocarbons.)

Broadly, the invention contemplates effecting the reaction during flow of the reactants through a conversion zone in the presence of a powdered solid heat carrier suspended in the reactants, the heat carrier serving to supply heat for the reaction, which reaction is of an endothermic nature. The carrier is removed continuously from the conversion zone, passes through a combustion zone wherein it's heat content is restored and thereafter returned to the conversion zone at an elevated temperature sufficient to provide heat for the reaction.

(We are compelled to interrupt, at unfortunately great length, here, to address an issue that we should have dealt with more thoroughly in previous reports.

All of the Carbon Dioxide recycling technologies which seem available to us do require the input of energy, most often in the form of heat, though more recent innovations enable the use of electricity and/or, as in the full report and Disclosure of our above-referenced "United States Patent 4,545,872", some form of light, whether artificial or solar.

Many of the earlier technologies do specify, as does Texaco herein, the use of inert "particulates" that are heated by some means in a separate zone, and then blended with the raw materials in a reaction zone in order to supply the thermal energy, thus avoiding the formation, through combustion, of any additional Carbon Dioxide within the reactants themselves. Although, as you will see, Texaco does posit that any CO2 generated in the heating of the catalyst particles, by a separate heat producing source, can be reclaimed and recycled into the system.

Other technical designs posit heating a specially-designed reaction vessel itself, with a source of heat external to that reaction vessel.

Nearly all of those technologies, like Texaco's herein, posit the combustion of some sort of fuel to obtain that heat energy. Some later innovations promoted by our own US Department of Energy, as we've once or twice alluded to, unpleasantly, and unacceptably to us, propose utilizing heat from nuclear reactors.

There are options.

As seen, for just one example, in our report:

USDOE Hydrogasifies Coal with Solar Power | Research & Development | News; concerning: "United States Patent 4,415,339 - Solar Coal Gasification Reactor; 1983; Assignee: The US Department of Energy; Abstract: Coal ... is fed into a solar reactor, and solar energy ... supplies the energy for the endothermic steam-char reaction";

the use of focused and concentrated Solar thermal energy has been proposed and developed as a means of driving endothermic Carbon conversion reactions.

However, such options might not be that applicable in the notoriously sun-shy environs of our often-cloudy, though still-beloved, US Coal Country. But, there are alternatives.

Intriguingly, as in our report concerning:

Another Energy Bonanza for Coal Country | Research & Development; concerning: "West Virginia Geothermal; A Large Green Energy Source Beneath Northeastern West Virginia; Southern Methodist University, 2010; New research produced by Southern Methodist University's Geothermal Laboratory, funded by a grant, suggests that the temperature of the Earth beneath the state of West Virginia is significantly higher than previously estimated and capable of supporting commercial baseload geothermal energy production";

parts of Coal Country might have an, for practical purposes, unlimited supply of heat energy available to it; which heat energy, though, again for practical purposes, might first have to be converted into Carbon-free electricity for the electrical resistance heating of Carbon conversion reaction vessels.

If electricity can be used, then, as seen in:

New Martinsville | American Municipal Power; concerning: New Martinsville owns and operates the New Martinsville Hydroelectric Plant at the Hannibal Locks and Dam ... in West Virginia. At the time of its construction in 1988, its twin bulb turbine generators were among the largest in the world. Each is capable of creating 18 MW of hydroelectric power, enough to power seven cities the size of New Martinsville"; and, in:

Ground broken for new hydro plant   - News - The Charleston Gazette - West Virginia News and Sports - ; which reports that: "Construction is under way on a $276 million hydroelectric plant at the Willow Island Locks and Dam"; and, in:

Hydropower: A Small but Growing Presence in W.Va. Electric Grid - State Journal -;

a multitude of options might exist for the hydro-electric retrofitting of Coal Country's numerous river locks and dams, which could provide the Carbon-free juice needed to, in our subject Texaco process, warm up their specified "powdered solid heat carrier" to supply the heat for the "reaction of a gaseous hydrocarbon with carbon dioxide and steam so as to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen".

In any case, with our apologies for that lengthy digression, we return to our excerpts from the Disclosure of that Texaco process, wherein they do explain that any Carbon Dioxide generated by the combustion of a fuel undertaken to heat the catalyst particles should be recovered and recycled into the process, as seen immediately following.)

The products of combustion and the reheated carrier powder are continuously withdrawn from the (catalyst reheating) combustion zone and the reheated powder recycled to the conversion zone. The products of combustion containing carbon dioxide are passed to an absorption zone wherein carbon dioxide is removed from the other gases and the carbon dioxide so recovered is advantageously passed to the conversion zone.

The (heat) carrier material may be impregnated with or have deposited thereon a catalytic agent such as metallic nickel ... which (is) capable of promoting the conversion reaction ... .

(So, synergistically, the particles that heat the reactants to the necessary temperature could also serve to catalyze the reaction.)

The hot (gaseous) products of (that catalyst heating) combustion may be used to preheat the methane and the steam ... .

(And, a) further advantage involves the production of a synthesis gas which is free of nitrogen.

Under these conditions (as specified) methane reacts with steam and carbon dioxide to form a gas containing carbon monoxide and hydrogen ... suitable ... for the subsequent conversion into hydrocarbons.

Claims: (A) process for the production of a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen wherein a gaseous hydrocarbon and a gas selected from the group consisting of steam and carbon dioxide are reacted (under conditions as specified)."


Again: Texaco does in many places specify the "gaseous hydrocarbon" to be, specifically, Methane.

And, by way of confirming our above-cited Texaco "United States Patent 4,545,872 - Method for Reducing Carbon Dioxide to Provide a Product; 1985;  A process and apparatus for reducing carbon dioxide to at least one useful product (and, which product is) methanol (and/or) methane"; wherein light energy is specified to be used to drive the process of converting Carbon Dioxide and H2O into, among other things, Methane, we refer you to our separate report of:

Penn State Solar CO2 + H2O = Methane | Research & Development; concerning: "High-Rate Solar Photocatalytic Conversion of CO2 and Water Vapor to Hydrocarbon Fuels; The Pennsylvania State University; 2009; Efficient solar conversion of carbon dioxide and water vapor to methane".

Thus, we can use environmental energy to convert an accused environmental pollutant, CO2, into a valuable product, Methane, which can then, as in our subject process of "United States Patent 2,448,290", be used to convert even more CO2 into "a gas ... suitable ... for the subsequent conversion into hydrocarbons".

Why, we are yet again compelled to ask, are such options for the productive recycling of Carbon Dioxide not being openly discussed and promoted, as a solution to our putative Carbon Dioxide "problem", as opposed to highly-publicized punitive taxation schemes, like "Cap & Trade"; and, as opposed to deceptive scams, like the mandated geologic sequestration of CO2 in leaky old oil wells, all done at the expense of the consumers of Coal-based electrical power; and, which geologic sequestration of CO2 aids greatly in the recovery of residual petroleum from those leaky old oil wells, thus subsidizing, again all at the expense of the consumers of Coal-based electricity, the profits of Big Oil?

All of that, of course, aside from the fact that such domestic production of liquid fuel from a domestic supply of an otherwise unwanted, and thus cheap, "pollutant", would delightfully stick a big ole' economic middle finger right in the eye of OPEC.

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