The goals of this project are to develop a process where alkali metal will reduce and scavenge sulfur and nitrogen contained in shale oil in the presence of hydrogen, and also to demonstrate electrolysis of the alkali polysulfide to alkali metal and sulfur.
Companies providing oil samples of at least five (5) gallons include Chevron, Oil Shale Exploration Company (OSEC), and Red Leaf Resources, Inc.
Work performed by Esso/Exxon in the 1970s found sodium to be effective at removing sulfur and heavy metals from bitumen and oil refinery residues and bottoms; in one case, nitrogen level was also reduced. That effort was expanded to examine the effectiveness of sodium and lithium for nitrogen removal. Previous work by Esso/Exxon also proposed using beta aluminum as a membrane for electrolytic regeneration of sodium. This work builds on that concept, but instead uses NaSicon and LiSicon-based membranes to eliminate water reactions.
This project will develop a new technology to upgrade shale oil by utilizing alkali metals to remove nitrogen, sulfur, and other heavy metals, as well as a method to electrolytically regenerate the alkali metals used in the process. The three technical focus areas include:
Successful development of this technology may provide potential developers of shale oil resources the ability to upgrade oil after retorting, but prior to refining. Currently, only the hydro-treating process is available, which requires considerable hydrogen and may over saturate the oil. The Green River Basin shale oil resource contains over one trillion barrels. This technology may contribute toward developing this important energy resource and reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil supplies.
The project has been completed and the process has demonstrated high levels of sulfur and metals removal from a variety of shale oil, heavy oil, or bitumen feedstocks while in most cases increasing API gravity. Nitrogen removal was less successful. Ceramatec is currently communicating with potential industry partners. DOE is awaiting a final technical report.