The need for cost effective technologies for upgrading coal mine methane to pipeline quality natural gas is becoming ever greater. The current work presents and investigates a new approach to reduce the impact of the most costly step in the conventional technology, nitrogen rejection. The proposed approach is based on the Velocys microchannel platform, which is being developed to commercialize compact and cost efficient chemical processing technology. For this separation, ultra fast thermal swing sorption is enabled by the very high rates of heat and mass transfer inherent in microchannel processing. In a first phase of the project solid adsorbents were explored. Feasibility of ultrafast thermal swing was demonstrated but the available adsorbents had insufficient differential methane capacity to achieve the required commercial economics. In a second phase, ionic liquids were adopted as absorbents of choice, and experimental work and economic analyses, performed to gauge their potential, showed promise for this novel alternative. Final conclusions suggest that a combination of a required cost target for ionic liquids or a methane capacity increase or a combination of both is required for commercialization.
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