Unconventional Resources
Innovative, Economical, Ultra-clean Incinerator for Low Heating Value VOC Emissions Last Reviewed November 2016

DE-SC0011884

Goal
The project goal is to develop an innovative, non-catalytic high destruction efficiency, and low fuel consumption volatile organic compounds (VOC) incinerator to reduce VOCs from condensate tanks and other low heat value waste gas streams.

Performers
Advanced Cooling Technologies (ACT), Inc., Lancaster, PA 17601

Background
VOC emissions from various sources (oil and gas storage tanks, landfills, etc.) are an increasing challenge that cause significant environmental and human health effects. The utilization of a thermal oxidizer is a simple and effective way to turn most of these VOCs to the less harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) and water. However, to meet more and more stringent environmental regulations, the fuel consumption to achieve sufficient high destruction efficiency not only causes increased operational costs but also can also generate an increased volume of greenhouse gases. In addition, the high incineration temperature results in more NOx formation from conventional incineration process. A cost effective, low NOx, fuel efficient thermal oxidizer with the exhaust products that can meet stringent environmental regulations will help to solve the aforementioned challenges.  

Impact
The technology being developed in this project can be applied to several waste gas incineration applications including those from landfill gas, chemical plants, hospitals, oil and gas operations, and more. This technology holds promise for reducing undesirable VOC emissions by using effective heat recirculation from the hot reacted stream to extend the flammability of the reactants containing the VOCs. There are no moving parts or catalysts involved. Its low fuel consumption, high destruction efficiency, and low capital and operational costs are the key benefits associated with the technology, making it an attractive option when compared to alternative VOC removal systems.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

  • Design and build a Swiss-roll with modified center reaction to accommodate higher flow rate and higher center reaction temperature. The Swiss-roll is currently under construction.
  • Initial discussion with Trane regarding applying Swiss-roll combustor for home heating application.
  • Successfully tested the scale-up Swiss-roll with simulated biogas (55% CH4, 45% CO2), and showed the stable combustion it is able to achieve with very low heating value without supplemental fuel.
  • Demonstrated the ultra-low NOx combustion (< 1 ppm NOx) with the scaled up Swiss-roll (~one cubic foot) during Zeeco visit. Zeeco is interested in exploring the possibility of using this incinerator for landfill biogas incineration application.

Current Status (November 2016)
1. Demonstrate Ultra-low NOx Combustion in the Scale-up Prototype
Under high-heat recirculation, the combustion reaction in the Swiss-roll can be sustained at lower (premixed) combustion temperatures (1000~1200ºC), resulting in extremely low NOx formation (< 1 ppm). ACT hosted Zeeco on June 22, 2016, to demonstrate this ultra-low combustion feature in the scale-up Swiss-roll prototype. The demonstration went well and Zeeco expressed interest in exploring the use of the Swiss-roll as an advanced incineration device. Table 1 shows multiple measurements of different species concentrations in the exhaust.

Table 1. The NOx and other species measured from the exhaust of the scaled-up Swiss-roll.

Log No.

Fuel

O2

CO2

CO

NO

NO2

NOx

SO2

Units

57

Propane

19.5

0.9

781

0

0

0

-

ppm

58

Propane

19.6

0.9

710

0

0

0

-

ppm

59

Propane

15

3.9

37

1

0

1

-

ppm

60

Propane

16.7

2.8

34

1

0

1

-

ppm

61

Propane

16.7

2.8

35

0

0

1

-

ppm

62

Propane

16.6

2.8

36

1

0

1

-

ppm

63

Propane

16.6

2.8

36

1

0

1

-

ppm

64

Propane

17.2

2.4

43

1

0

1

-

ppm

65

Propane

17.4

2.3

56

1

0

1

-

ppm

66

Propane

17.4

2.3

68

1

0

1

-

ppm


2. Demonstrate the Stable Incineration with Low Heating Value Biogas
Zeeco suggested that the initial potential application is for landfill biogas incineration. In the later life of the landfill, the heating value of the biogas is too low to have stable incineration by itself, and a significant amount of supplemental fuel is needed to sustain the combustion process. Since the Swiss-roll is able to have stable combustion with very low heating value feedstock, it can potentially be used in this application to reduce the cost of supplemental fuel. A simulated biogas (55% CH4 and 45% CO2) test was performed to demonstrate the low heating value combustion in the Swiss-roll incinerator.

sc0011884-biogas-lean-limit-operating-curve
Figure 1. The lean limit of the low heating value biogas (indicated via equivalence ratio) tested in scale-up Swiss-roll. (click to enlarge)

3. Design and Build a Swiss-roll with Modified Center Reaction Zone
While the low heating value combustion has been demonstrated, one challenge of using the Swiss-roll for the landfill application is the requirement of high process flow rate. At the later life of the landfill, it still has ~500 CFM of biogas flow rate, plus the large amount of air needed. This high flow rate results in anextremely large Swiss-roll size requirement. In addition, the current reaction zone, which is constructed by two half circle sheet metals, tends to deform due to high center reaction temperature (Figure 2 Left). To address these challenges, a new center reaction zone design was developed. The new reaction zone is a solid cylinder with the flow introduced from one end and leaving from the other end. As with the typical Swiss-roll design, this center reaction is surrounded by the spiral heat exchanger to recover the heat (Figure 2 Right). The new design is expected to have better structural integrity and also accommodate high flow rate due to reduced center flow speed. The new Swiss-roll is currently under construction and will be completed and tested soon.

sc0011884-fig2-1.png
sc0011884-fig2-2.png

Figure 2. Left: The center of the previous scale-up Swiss-roll deformed due to high reaction temperature. Right: The new design Swiss-roll with modified center reaction zone (a solid cylinder with thicker wall) to accommodate higher flow rate and higher center reaction temperature.(click to enlarge)

4. Heating Applications
In addition to the potential landfill application, the ultra-low NOx combustion feature may be applied to other combustion-related devices. ACT recently had a teleconference with engineers from Trane, who is a leading manufacturer of heating and cooling systems. They expressed the interest on using Swiss-roll for the combustion device for residential and commercial heating applications. The motivation is due to the recent environmental regulation in California (rule 1111) that requires the NOx emission of those devices be reduced from 40 ng/J to 14 ng/J. While the Swiss-roll has been demonstrated to be able to achieve very low NOx combustion, it has not been demonstrated for heating application. To explore the possibility of using the Swiss-roll for this application, a method to extract heat from the Swiss-roll is currently being designed (Figure 3).

 

sc0011884-schematic-of-method-extract-heat-swiss-roll.png
Figure 3. Schematic of method to extract heat from Swiss-roll.  (click to enlarge)


Project Start: June 9, 2014
Project End: July 27, 2017

DOE Contribution: $1,149,989
Performer Contribution: $0

Contact Information:
NETL – David Cercone (David.Cercone@netl.doe.gov or 412-386-6571)
Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc. – Chien-Hua Chen (chien-hua.chen@1-act.com or 717-295-6116)