Shale Gas to Ethylene (G2)

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Executive Summary

This report is part of an ongoing project to design a process to produce ethylene and NGLs from shale gas. The inlet raw shale gas is taken from the Barnett Shale site in Texas with an inlet flow rate of shale is 171,200 kg/hr. The design would be implemented in Johnson County, TX, which is nearby the shale site. The Barnett shale contains about 17% ethane, which we seek to separate from the inlet gas and convert into ethylene via steam cracking. Additionally, because the shale contains significant amounts of other hydrocarbons, natural gas, propane, and NGLs will be recovered from the shale to be sold.

The proposed design consists of six main sections which were modeled in HYSYS: acid gas removal, dehydration, fractionation train, hydrogenation reactor, ethylene splitter, and steam cracking. The acid gas removal section uses Diethylamine (DEA) to remove the CO2 from the raw shale gas. The DEA is fully recovered, thus no make-up stream is required, and the CO2 content is reduced from 0.66 to 0.04 mol%. The purpose of the dehydration section is to remove all of the water from the shale before it is sent through the fractionation train, as water will freeze due to the low temperatures in this section. Triethylene glycol (TEG) is used to absorb water from the gas, reduce the water content from 2.44 to 0.01 mol%. TEG is then partially recovered and recycled. The fractionation train consists of 4 distillation columns. The first is the demethanizer, which yields a methane-rich tops that is sent to a second distillation column to purify methane for sale, and the bottoms is sent to the third column, the deethanizer. The deethanizer ethane-rich tops is sent on for further processing, while the bottoms is sent to the fourth column, the depropanizer, with yields a propane top stream and an NGL bottom stream. The next section is the hydrogenation reactor, into which the tops of the deethanizer is fed to selectively hydrogenate acetylene, which is an impurity from the cracking reactor, into ethylene and ethane, reducing the content of acetylene in the gas from 100 ppm to 4 ppm. Next, they hydrogenated gas proceeds to an ethylene splitter which separates ethylene for sale, methane to recycle, and ethane which proceeds to the final section, the cracking reactor. The cracking reactor operates at about 820C and converts ethane to ethylene, with the cracked gas containing 48% ethylene. The cracked gas is then quenched and recycled for purification.

This discussed design results in the following product streams: 26,600 kg/hr of >98% purity ethylene , 6,300 kg/hr of 94% pure hydrogen, 68,600 kg/hr of 96% pure methane, 30,600 kg/hr of 97% pure propane, and 38,200 kg/hr of NGLs, which is 72% butane and 26% pentane. The total profits from the sale of these products surmounts to about $328 million annually. The annual cost of this design includes the cost of purchasing feeds, offsite organic waste treatment, utilities (determined from Aspen Energy Analyzer), labor, and other miscellaneous costs. This annual cost is $250 million. Additionally, the total capital cost, determined from estimated equipment sizes as well as added contingency for piping and other fixtures, sums to $120 million. From these costs, the design has a 10 year NPV of $547 million, a payback period of 3 years and an internal rate of return (IRR) of 72%. These calculations indicate a profitable design that should be pursued. However, this design and the resulting calculations should be refined with additional researching and alternatives beyond what is presented in this report.


Technical Approach

Design Summary


HYSYS Simulation

Acid Gas Removal


Fractionation Train

Hydrogenation Reactor

Ethylene Splitter

Steam Cracking

Process Optimization

Process Alternatives

Acid Gas Removal


Fractionation Train

Separation of Methane and Hydrogen

Hydrogenation Reactor

Steam Cracking

Economic Analysis

Capital Costs

Energy Usage

Fixed and Variable Costs

Overall Economic Feasibility

Sensitivity Analysis

Conclusion and Recommendations



Appendix A: Shale Gas Composition

Table A.1: Barnett Shale Gas Composition

Appendix B: Process Flow Diagram

Figure B.1: PFD

Appendix C: HYSYS Diagram

Appendix D: Equipment List

Appendix E: Stream Information

Appendix F: Economic Analysis