Featured Project

GTI Natural Gas Reactor Engine

GTI’s radically smaller chemical processing plants monetize byproducts of natural gas production

Czero worked with the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), Oregon State University (OSU), and EcoCatalytic Technologies to develop a small-scale reactor engine for converting the longer-chain alkanes from oil and natural gas extraction, such as ethane, propane, butane, and pentane, into more commercially desirable forms. The ultimate goal is a low-cost, high-throughput reactor. Seeing the industry-changing potential of this new technology, ARPA-E awarded $3.2 million to GTI for R&D. The GTI gas-to-gas reactor engine was one of 41 concepts chosen by ARPA-E from a field of 2,000 applicants for an OPEN 2015 award.

Environmental economics:
Tech to turn regulatory requirements into a financial win

Because of the economics (the costs of transportation and refining), alkanes other than methane are typically treated as waste products. Case in point: right now between the cost of separation and a glut on the market keeping prices low, ethane has a true negative value for producers. This is a significant issue in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale and North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, where natural gas has higher than average ethane content. Additionally, many oil operations consider even methane a waste product. As a result of these factors, many producers choose to flare natural gases.

In the big picture, however, this wastes finite natural resources and produces significant long-term greenhouse effects without doing meaningful work. Data on the environmental consequences of natural gas venting and flaring led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2015 to establish new regulations of these practices; oil and gas producers will soon be required to capture and store alkane byproducts.

That being the case, it will make sense to monetize them

This new, high-efficiency GTI reactor technology, radically lower cost and smaller scale than conventional natural gas processing plants, will help make processing practical and profitable, even in remote locations. In broader application, small enough to be transportable, the GTI reactor engines could serve as processing backup, to prevent loss of production capacity when taking a larger plant offline for maintenance.

Czero’s role in R&D

For the GTI reactor engine R&D, Czero’s engineers modeled gas reaction temperatures, evaluated multiple concepts and architectures, did detailed design work, and made the first system prototype.



"This is a radically different approach to solving the problem of dealing with byproducts of oil and gas production. It has the potential to turn negative-value waste streams into products that can be sold, as opposed to flaring. More importantly, if successful, this technology can be extrapolated to many other chemical processes, thereby lowering the cost and barriers inherent in traditional processing plants. Technology that comes with such potential comes with great risk, and we are glad that ARPA-E has the vision to fund such high-risk, high-reward technology."
Devin Halliday, Principal Investigator Gas Technology Institute

Using GT-SUITE for unconventional engine design

We chose GT-SUITE to model the gas flow, species mixing, and heat transfer in single- and dual-cylinder engine reactor design concepts for the high-throughput system, required to operate at sustained temperatures near 900℃ (1,652℉). The results from the analysis were used to determine which concept would yield the highest throughput and best performance.

Read the details on the analysis performed with GT Suite here.

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"Czero’s work with us to fully understand the requirements of the end product for the new reactor engine system has been instrumental in developing a completely new, innovative system. From these requirements, they were able to quickly come up with multiple concepts for vetting against the tough project objectives, which include not only technical feasibility but also aggressive cost targets. The in-depth simulation and analysis of the various concepts that Czero did ahead of time have built tremendous confidence we are going down the right path."
– Devin Halliday, Principal Investigator Gas Technology Institute

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