Heavy industries are coming to terms with their contributions to the ongoing climate crisis. Regulatory and public pressures are pushing those who work in the mining, chemical, steel and manufacturing sectors to lower their carbon emissions. Seeking to modernize and meet these demands, these industries are increasingly joining the movement for global decarbonization.
One focus for decarbonization efforts has been on minimizing off-gas emissions from industrial processes. This challenge is even more difficult when applied to refining and petrochemical processing units. Black & Veatch has a solution in its proprietary PRICO-NGL® (natural gas liquids) gas processing technology that’s accessible and affordable. Currently used by a facility in Alberta, Canada, to extract valuable NGLs from byproduct gas of oil sands bitumen, the PRICO-NGL® process is a reliable, safe and flexible method of NGL recovery that reduces overall carbon emissions, notably for refinery off-gases with high hydrogen contents. Compared to conventional gas processing technologies, PRICO-NGL® yields significantly higher product recovery while requiring less energy.
This technology, which has been successfully operating for 5 years, capitalizes on the richness of high-value NGLs and petrochemicals — like ethylene, propane and more — contained in bitumen off-gas. Usually, off-gas from a refinery unit would go directly to that unit’s fuel system while still containing valuable NGLs. Instead, off-gas processing removes the NGLs before the off-gas is sent to the fuel system, both increasing methane content of the fuel and extracting valuable components.
Companies that set sustainability goals often find that decarbonization strategies help them achieve their objectives in a more cost-effective and productive manner than more conventional strategies. This applies in the case of PRICO-NGL®, as recovered NGLs can be monetized and sold rather than burned as fuel. Recovered NGLs can be repurposed in several ways, including processing them to be separated and sold as finished products, used as feedstock, or blended into the gasoline pool. The removal of NGLs from off-gas also reduces the overall emissions from the facility as clean burning natural gas is used in lieu of other fuels.
While other gas processing technologies exist, their effectiveness is limited by high-hydrogen content, low feed pressure, and regular variations in feed rate and composition. PRICO-NGL® differs from these technologies in its flexibility to accommodate the wide range of feed gas compositions and fluctuations in feed rate that are common in off-gas applications. This flexibility is made possible with single mixed refrigerant (SMR) technology, which singularly allows for modification as needed to meet variations in process demands.
The unique use of SMR in Black & Veatch’s PRICO-NGL® technology also allows for greater efficiency than other off-gas processing methods. A Black & Veatch case study found that when compared to conventional NGL recovery technology, use of SMR achieved greater than 10 percent higher ethylene recovery and 6 percent higher ethane recovery. Overall, the removal of these NGLs constitutes significant reduction in the carbon emissions released.
By removing NGLs from the off-gas, the PRICO-NGL® process lowers the molecular weight of the residue gas stream. This lower weight translates to lower carbon emissions, since fewer heavy hydrocarbons are burned with the fuel. For example, propane (a heavier hydrocarbon) generates about 20 percent more carbon dioxide than methane to produce the same amount of heat. This simultaneous reduction in emissions and recovery of a revenue building asset is what makes PRICO-NGL® a superstar in decarbonization.
With the Biden Administration’s plans to decarbonize the United States, all industries are sure to feel increased pressure to reduce emissions. The president has announced he strives to push the U.S. economy to net-zero emissions by no later than 2050. If the nation is to meet this goal, industries must begin modernizing now. PRICO-NGL® is a reliable, cost-effective option for companies seeking low-carbon alternatives to their current processes.
As companies across all industries set aggressive decarbonization goals, they look to Black & Veatch for guidance. A market-leader in deploying decarbonization technologies, Black & Veatch is a go-to resource for companies looking to decarbonize using the newest, most efficient methods. As a part of Black & Veatch’s sustainability mission, the company is committed to innovating decarbonization efforts with solutions like low- and zero-emission power generation, advanced renewable energy projects, alternative-fueled vehicles, energy storage and more.
Black & Veatch’s proprietary PRICO-NGL® technology not only aids the decarbonization efforts of refining and petrochemical processing units by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, it also improves quality of facility fuel supply and adds significant additional revenue. As companies adapt to climate change by decarbonizing their processing and refining methods, the implementation of this technology is sure to remain a game-changer in combining sustainability efforts with increased reliability and economic benefit.