Heat Exchange Autothermal Reforming

It is wasteful from a thermodynamic perspective to use the high temperature (~1000oC) gases exiting the secondary and the primary reformer just for raising steam. It is more favorable to utilize the heat from the secondary reformer gases in a newer type of primary reformer, the heat exchanger reformer, and thus eliminate the use of the traditionally fuel-fired reformer furnace (IPTS/EC, 2007 p.62). When a heat exchanger is used, more oxygen needs to be supplied to the secondary reformer to increase the firing.

There are several processes that operate without a fired primary reformer in an advanced configuration such as the ICI LCA and the KBR KAAPplus processes (Ullmann’s, 2011 p.240). Other major characteristics of these advanced processes are isothermal shift conversion, high activity synthesis catalysts and CO2 removal systems with solid absorbent. Figure beow shows the KBR Reforming Exchanger System (KRES) process, developed by KBR in which the natural gas stream is split into two streams after the desulfurization unit. The smaller of the two streams enters the heat exchanger and the other an autothermal reformer. The LCA and the KAAPplus processes drastically decrease CO2 emissions as they eliminate the flue gases from the primary reformer and may also decrease NOx emissions by 50% or more (IPTS/EC, 2007 p.62). The KRES technology is in commercial operation at ammonia plants in Kitimat (Canada) since 1994 and Liaohe (China) since 2003.

Development Status Products

Heat Exchange Autothermal ReformingCosts & Benefits

Parent Process: Steam Reforming
Energy Savings Potential
CO2 Emission Reduction Potential

The investment cost are stated to be 303 Yen/tonne ammonia, resulting in a payback time of one year (1999 figures) (ECCJ, 1999, 148).

Heat Exchange Autothermal ReformingSchematic

Heat Exchange Autothermal Reforming Publications

Directory of Energy Conservation Technology in Japan - Section 3: Chemical Industry

Prepared by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization and the Energy Conservation Center, Japan, this extensive directory covers an extensive list of energy saving measures applicable to diverse range of industries. Section 3 concentrates on measures applicable to chemical industry, including ammonia production.

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Heat Exchange Autothermal Reforming Reference Documents

Reference Document on Best Available Techniques for the Manufacture of Large Volume Inorganic Chemicals - Ammonia, Acids and Fertilisers

Prepared by the Institute for Prospective Technical Studies of European Commision, this document provides detalied information on Best Available Technologies applicable to Ammonia production – as well as on the production of Acids and Fertilizers.  

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