Published August 1989
This review evaluates a novel, liquid-phase, methanol synthesis catalyst that has been developed at the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). The catalyst, which is a complex hydrogenating agent, is claimed to be sufficiently active to permit acceptable space-time yields, even at relatively low temperatures and pressures. However, the catalyst is deactivated by CO2, and H2O and therefore these components must be removed from the syngas to fractional ppm level.
Our basis for evaluating the process is similar to that proposed by BNL, comprising syngas generation by air reforming of natural gas (like the secondary reformer in an ammonia process) and entailing a single pass synthesis step that operates at 95% CO conversion. The unconverted gas mixture is used to generate electricity via a combustor turbine. This results in surplus electricity, which must be exported.
Compared with a conventional methanol process, such as that of ICl, the BNL concept offers the prospect of a modest reduction in the capital investment cost but this is offset by a higher natural gas consumption. Overall, the cost advantage is only marginal. If the surplus energy in the unconverted gas cannot be exported (as steam or electricity), the BNL concept will be at a disadvantage.