RTI International completes mechanical installation of its warm-syngas cleanup technology demonstration facility at Tampa Electric

TAMPA — RTI International completed the mechanical installation of a large demonstration-scale application of its warm synthesis gas (syngas) desulfurization process technology at Tampa Electric’s Polk Power Station in Polk County, Fla.

In 2010 RTI was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to scale-up its novel syngas cleanup technology at Tampa Electric as part of a national research effort to produce cleaner energy from domestic fossil fuel sources.

The gasification process converts carbon-based materials such as coal, petroleum coke and biomass into syngas, which requires cleanup and conditioning steps before being used for the production of electrical power or industrial products such as chemicals, fertilizers, fuels, or hydrogen.

RTI's technology removes contaminants such as sulfur and heavy metals at warm process temperatures, eliminating the need for substantial syngas cooling and expensive heat recovery systems. This would significantly increase the thermal efficiency and reduce the capital and operating costs of new gasification-based systems when compared to conventional process technologies.

The newly installed pre-commercial demonstration facility will use about 20 percent of the raw syngas from Tampa Electric’s existing 250 megawatt electric Polk 1 coal- and petcoke-fueled integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant as its input feed stream. It will remove more than 99.9 percent of the sulfur contaminants from the raw syngas at gasifier pressure and warm process temperature. 

In addition to demonstrating warm syngas desulfurization, the RTI system also includes a water-gas-shift reactor to enrich the hydrogen content of the cleaned syngas and will demonstrate an advanced activated amine process for capture of more than 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from the syngas stream. Following clean-up, the hydrogen-enriched syngas will be re-introduced to the Polk 1 plant and combusted in the existing syngas turbine. 

Mechanical construction of the pre-commercial demonstration facility, using first-of-a-kind technologies, was completed ahead of schedule and below the targeted budget.

“This is an exciting milestone in an innovative and important project,” said Wayne Holden, Ph.D., RTI president and CEO. “This project is a critical element of the DOE’s effort to develop breakthrough technologies for the clean and efficient use of U.S. coal resources for the generation of electrical power and the production of chemicals and fuels.”

Tampa Electric is the host site for the project and is assisting RTI with operations and maintenance of the demonstration facility and also with the integration of the unit with its Polk 1 plant. 

In addition to Tampa Electric, RTI’s technology partners in the $168.8 million project include BASF Corporation, Clariant Corporation, and Eastman Chemical Company. Funding for the project is being provided by the DOE as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The overall project was managed by RTI and the engineering, procurement, and construction of the facility was contracted to AMEC Kamtech, Inc.  CH2M Hill served as the owner’s engineer for RTI for the project.  Clariant Corporation manufactured the sulfur sorbent and the catalysts needed for the project in its Louisville, Ky. facility. 

The demonstration facility is now in the final stages of commissioning and initial plant startup. It is expected to be operated through the end of June 2015, under the existing DOE agreement, generating the data needed to mitigate design and scale-up risks for a commercial-scale plant.  

RTI’s warm syngas desulfurization technology was previously successfully tested at a pilot-plant scale on actual syngas for more than 3000 hours at Eastman Chemical Company’s coal gasification facility in Kingsport, Tenn. 

RTI is now in the process of identifying an industrial partner for commercialization of this technology.