Published January 1977
Synthesis gas, primarily a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, is the starting material for the manufacture of ammonia and its derivatives and methanol, as well as for other oxo-synthesis processes. It is a source of carbon monoxide component in the manufacture of such chemicals as acetic acid and acrylates, and a source of hydrogen for hydrocracking, hydrotreating, and hydrodesulfurization in petroleum refining. The ever increasing demand for synthesis gas and the concomitant shortages and high prices of natural gas and naphtha, currently the two most important feedstocks for synthesis gas, have raised interest in other feedstocks.
In this report the technical and economic facets of synthesis gas production are evaluated. The conventional methods, catalytic steam reforming of natural gas and of naphtha , are compared with noncatalytic partial oxidation of high sulfur residual oil and with the gasification of coal. Since catalytic partial oxidation of naphtha has generally been supplanted by the more economic naphtha steam reforming (see Process Economics Program Report No. 32A, "Hydrogen"), the former is not covered in this report.
The coverage of technical literature and patents is generally limited to the period after 1972-73, because the preceding period was covered in Process Economics Program Report s No. 32, 32A, 43, and 44 on hydrogen, methanol, and ammonia. Since publication of the earlier reports, new developments have taken place, primarily in coal gasification and in catalyst formulations, and minor process improvements have been made in steam reforming, partial oxidation, and the carbon monoxide shift reaction.
A review of the carbon monoxide shift reaction , a reaction common to all the processes evaluated, is included in Section 4. The cost and design bases as well as supplementary information are included in Appendices A through C.