Solar gasification of petcoke project
Luís Zacarias,
PSA Contact: Thorsten Denk,
Project funded by the partners, with PDVSA majority share
Total budget: $6,950 k. CIEMAT budget: $1.940 k.
September 1, 2002 –February 28, 2011
Solar gasification has some important advantages of its solarization, such as being a strongly endothermal process, which makes it possible to make maximal use of the heat supplied by the solar radiation. Another undeniable advantage is that gasification is a known process, normally used in industry and with completely proven and developed technologies. Solarization in the short-term of H2 production has technical problems inherent in the use of solar radiation, that is, adaptation of these processes to variations typical of solar energy flux, especially in developing receivers/reactors.
The main purpose of the SYNPET Project is to demonstrate the technical feasibility of solar gasification of waste from extra-heavy oil in the Faja del Orinoco. The development concentrates on finding the thermodynamic and kinetic parameters of the associated reactions, in the design of a solar reactor with quartz window and scale-up to and evaluation of a 500 kW installation located on the highest level of the PSA CRS tower.
             Photograph of the segmented window. Mounting.                                         
Photograph of the segmented window. In operation.

In general terms, the current situation of the SYNPET plant is good, as few defects/malfunctions have been found in the equipment installed during commissioning. It is important to highlight the data from the last tests where a temperature inside the reactor of 1050ºC was reached. The response of inner insulation was excellent, although some defects (cracks, breaks, etc.) were also found in the front cone, and so it had to be replaced. These first tests were made with the quartz window, at irradiance flux of up to 1.5 MW/m2. Several different alternatives for a new configuration of the center cone were studied with the Fleischmann company technicians (manufacturer of the refractory material) and a modular configuration based on two rows of bricks was chosen, which buffers the stress from high incident flux in the front cone. The same materials were used as in the first stage of the project: FISA-CAST 190 and 170 alumina ceramics. Results of the tests that were started this year with this new configuration were very promising for its durability.

On the other hand, it should be mentioned that this project on a whole has meant the complete revision of some concepts: the design of a new support frame for large-aperture quartz windows and design of new systems for heat waste recovery from the gas, keeping in mind the special characteristics of these processes (high temperatures and high concentration of solids in the gas stream at the receiver outlet).
To date, two patents have been acquired in the United States corresponding to the gasification process and the solar reactor.

The solar gasification of petcoke project is in cooperation with the company Petróleos de Venezuela (PVDSA), the Technology Institute of Zurich (ETH) and the CIEMAT.