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Methanol Technology

Methanol Process Technology

With some 40 years experience in the methanol business Davy Process
Technology is the worlds leading provider of methanol technologies. More
than 30 plants using these technologies have been built in 16 countries
accounting for more than 40% of the worlds methanol capacity. Davy
Process Technologys reforming experience and its range of synthesis gas
technologies are key strengths, as is its wide experience with the core
methanol technology from J ohnson Matthey Catalysts (previously part of ICI).
Since 1985 Davy Process Technology has been responsible for the process
development of approximately 75% of the plants using this technology.

The technology can produce AA grade methanol for chemical applications or
alternative grades for olefin production, fuel use or power generation. We
have licensed technologies for plants with single stream capacities up to 2.4
million tonnes per year (6700 tonnes per day) using the Davy Process
Technology reactor technology in conjunction with J ohnson Mattheys world
renowned methanol synthesis catalysts and process technology. Designs
have also been developed for larger plants for a range of feedstocks.

The Process Options

We offer a wide range of process technologies that can be applied to methanol production. Synthesis gas can be generated by
steam reforming (conventional steam methane reformer or Compact Reformer) or by oxygen reforming (gas heated reforming,
combined reforming or auto thermal reforming). Steam or gas cooled reactors are available for methanol synthesis and one,
two or three column distillation is used for the production of purified product.

The breadth of technology solutions available to us allows us to custom design a flow sheet to reflect any particular project
situation, be it large or small, onshore or offshore, for chemical, fuel power generation or MTO use.

Reforming Options Methanol Synthesis Options
Steam Methane Reforming Each and every methanol loop
Compact Reforming is custom designed to provide the optimal
Auto Thermal Reforming (ATR) energy and capital solution for a given
Combined Reforming production capacity and raw gas composition.
Gas Heated Reforming

Davy Process Technology supplies technology designs for a wide range of feedstock sources (gas, coal, petroleum coke, etc.)
and the type of design matches each clients particular requirements. We custom design every flowsheet from feedstock to
product specifications to optimise energy and meet capital constraints. This brochure illustrates a range of features of our
methanol technology and we recommend direct contact with our specialists to determine the solution to match specific

M5000 Reformer Trinidad
CRG Pre-


Sour Shift
Clean Up

Feed Gas
Clean Up
Feed gas
Product gas
Water Water
Inert fill
Steam and
water outlet
Methanol Synthesis

Davy Process Technology together with J ohnson Matthey Catalysts is a leading
provider of methanol technology which is delivered via world class reactor concepts.
Here, we describe some of the features of our designs:

Tube Cooled Converter

The tube cooled converter is a simple reactor which uses the feed gas to control the
temperature in the catalyst bed. Fresh feed gas enters at the bottom of the reactor and
is preheated as it flows upwards through tubes in the catalyst bed. The heated feed
gas leaves the top of the tubes and flows down through the catalyst bed where the
reaction takes place.

The heat of reaction is removed by counter-current exchange with feed gas resulting in
a temperature profile that approximates to the maximum rate curve. Operated in this
manner the reactor achieves good catalyst utilisation. The internals are relatively
simple having to be designed only for the differential pressure. Tube thicknesses are
kept to a minimum and there are no tube sheet construction problems. With the
catalyst on the shell side of the reactor a low cost reactor with an efficient catalyst
volume is achieved. As with all axial flow reactors, there is a limit to bed depth due to
pressure drop constraints. This together with maximum diameters set by
manufacturing or shipping limits means that the maximum capacity possible from a
single reactor is about 2,500 TPD. Above this capacity multiple reactors are

Radial Flow Steam Raising Converter

This steam raising converter is a radial flow reactor with catalyst contained on the
shell side and steam in the tubes. Fresh feed gas enters at the bottom of the reactor
through a central perforated-wall distributor pipe. The gas then flows radially out
through the catalyst bed from the inside to out. Water from a steam drum enters at
the bottom of the vessel, and flows upwards through the tubes where it is partially
vaporised, removing the heat generated by the reaction before returning to the steam
drum. The reaction temperature is controlled by varying the steam pressure inside
tubes embedded in the catalyst bed. This arrangement gives an excellent
temperature profile through the catalyst bed minimising the catalyst required.

With a radial flow design the vessel tan to tan height can be increased to maximise
the capacity of the reactor without increasing the reactor diameter or the loop
pressure drop. Such a concept permits designs for the highest capacity of methanol
production in a single reactor to be achieved with capacities up to 3,500 TPD
possible. This makes the reactor particularly suited to large capacity plants or for
locations where shipping restrictions limit the diameter of the reactor.

Axial Flow Catalyst in Tubes

The axial flow catalyst in tube reactor is another form of steam raising converter.
As for the radial reactor, the reaction temperature is controlled by varying the
steam pressure. This arrangement gives a good temperature profile through the
catalyst bed minimising the catalyst required and gives efficient heat recovery to
steam. The reactor does however require a thick tube sheets that limits the
maximum capacity of the reactor to around 1500 TPD and requires a large number
of tubes to accommodate the catalyst. This tends to make this reactor choice a
costly one.

As part of the development of this type of reactor, Davy Process Technology
constructed both mathematical and physical models and the results over a range
of conditions were calibrated against real plant tests. Computational Fluid
Dynamics (CFD) is the design tool of choice for a radial-flow converter and a
quarter-scale model of a segment of the reactor was built so that the CFD results
could be compared with water-flow trials. The results were in close comparison
and provided criteria to proceed with sizing of plant designs. Davy Process
Technology now uses these proven simulation programmes for new plant designs.

Synthesis Loop Configuration

Particularly for large plants there is an incentive to increase the conversion in the loop and reduce the loop circulation rate. This
is exemplified in a Series Synthesis Arrangement as shown below. Our Methanol Technology incorporates a number of
flowsheet improvements which give further benefits of larger single stream capacities, lower capital cost, reduced energy
consumption and, longer on-stream periods. The key improvements to the flowsheet can include Catalytic Rich Gas (CRG) pre-
reforming technology combined with the Davy Process Technology Steam Raising Reactor in the methanol synthesis loop.
These combined features are considered when the feed gas has a significant CO
content to reduce the size of the radiant box,
recover more energy thereby increasing efficiency, reduce the size of the steam system, provide more efficient methanol
synthesis and to reduce the methanol loop operating pressure

Davy Process Technology has no preconceived ideas about the design of large methanol plants. We work with each client to
arrive at the optimum solution. We have an entirely original approach to the design of synthesis loops. Particularly for large
plants there is an incentive to increase conversion in the loop and reduce circulation rate. We offer three types of converter:
Gas/Tube Cooled, Quench and Steam Raising. These may be used singly or in series and combined with any of our reformer
techniques. These reactor options are shown below.

Steam Raising Loop Gas/Tube Cooled Loop Quench Loop

Any of these loop flowsheets may be combined with any of the reforming described elswhere. Moreover it is possible to design
combined reformers with series converters with each unit sized to give the whole flowsheet optimum performance.
Consequently, there are many permutations of arrangements and every case is judged on client preferred economics in order to
develop the best process configuration that will deliver the chosen quality of methanol product to market with maximum profit. A
simple Steam Reformer and Gas/Tube Cooled Converter Loop is shown in the flowsheet below.

Steam Reforming with Tube Cooled Methanol Converter

Innovative Large Scale Designs

The following example provides an illustration of two approaches to one application. A Gas Heated Reformer was combined
with a Gas/Tube Cooled converter with high conversion at a low temperature and a Water Cooled Converter using saturator
water as the cooling fluid so that the heat recovered goes back into generating process steam. The second approach is a novel
arrangement comprising a radial flow Steam Reformer with an axial Steam Raising Converter. Compared to a conventional
large capacity synthesis loop, this design operates with 30% lower recycle while achieving very high conversion and requiring
low catalyst volumes.

For large scale designs it is appropriate to have two methanol converters in series. A gas heated reformer may be combined
with a gas/tube converter followed by a water cooled converter using saturator water as the cooling fluid. The major part of the
reaction is carried out in a conventional gas/tube cooled converter, but to get the best possible conversion it is necessary to
reach equilibrium at a lower temperature. This is done in a steam raising converter using saturator water as the cooling fluid so
that the heat recovered goes back into generating process steam, equivalent to raising steam at 50 bar on a GHR +ATR plant.
This arrangement allows methanol content to be as high as 10% with low recycle gas flow rate so that axial flow reactors can
continue to be used up to 6,000 TPD or higher.

Davy Process Technology has developed a new synthesis loop technology that is also suitable for large scale designs. In this
approach, a conventional steam reformer is combined with two identical reactors in series. These may be twin radial flow steam-
raising converters, axial steam-raising converters or gas/tube cooled converters. Compared to a conventional methanol
synthesis loop, this new design operates with an approximately 30% lower recycle ratio while achieving very high conversion
with low catalyst volumes.
Syngas Syngas Syngas Product Product Product

Davy Process Technology offers a range of designs of methanol distillation systems. Depending on the destined market and
appropriate specification, two or three column flowsheets may be chosen. The figure below shows the three column system
used for the recent M5000 plant in Trinidad.

The 5000 MTPD plant flowsheet designed by Davy Process Technology and operated in Trinidad uses a single topping column
but the larger refining columns are split into two because a single 5000 MTPD column is too big to ship to most sites around the
world. The design of internals including trays and gas and liquid distributors is achieved using detailed hydraulic modelling in
order to ensure that accurate flow distribution is maintained under changing process conditions. When we look to the future, it is
likely that methanol will continue to be an internationally traded commodity chemical and also have outlets as a fuel component
and a captive intermediate. Consequently, not all methanol plants will be making AA-grade methanol and for a lower
specification product, a totally single-stream 5000 MTPD distillation train becomes feasible and further advantages of the
economics of scale become realisable.

Reforming and Gas Feed Treatment

Davy Process Technology in conjunction with J ohnson Matthey Catalysts
provides processes to utilise a wide range of hydrocarbon sources in
methanol synthesis. We have designs for extensive ranges of methane
rich gases that may include carbon dioxide, nitrogen and heavier
hydrocarbons. We also provide designs for gases generated from coal,
shale oil, refinery petrocoke and sub-surface coal gasification. We treat,
condition or purify these gases so they are suitable for one of our
extensive range of reforming technologies, including:

- Steam Reforming
- Compact Reforming
- Auto Thermal Reforming
- Combined Reforming
- Gas Heated Reforming

We also work closely with different gasification technologies and have,
with J ohnson Matthey Catalysts, flowsheet designs and catalysts to
process and condition gases that need shift, impurity removal and CO

removal. We illustrate our expertise in the following associated
brochures: Carbon Conversion Technologies
Gas Conditioning and Purification
Synthesis Gas Technology
Compact Reformer & GTL Technologies

Synthesis Gas Compression

The Davy Process Technology flowsheet incorporates a
turbine in the second stage of the synthesis gas
compressor. Even with a turbine limit (for high-speed
duty) of 70MW further improvements have been made to
enable the flowsheet to deliver in excess of 6500 MPTD
of methanol. These include permutations of the
following options:

reduction of the discharge (loop) pressure
housing the circulator in a separate casing
adding carbon oxides

Reducing the loop pressure is more than counter-
balanced by improvements in synthesis reactor design
and reduced rate of circulation from enhanced catalyst
performance with higher specific conversion efficiency.

Reliability and Cost Effectiveness

Davy Process Technologys tried and tested steam reforming route to
methanol will continue to be used for many applications provided the limits
of design and performance continue to be extended. In this way, new
plants inherit reliability gained over many design cycles but have single
stream capacity of double the limit that seemed possible only ten years
ago. Designs for such large plants use equipment normally employed in
the utility industries such as power generating stations. As piping and
valves become larger, wall thickness increases and weight rises so that
they need their own support structures. Each scale-up development
demands extension of specifications in terms of materials of construction,
fabrication tolerances and novel systems for installation and increasing
the scale of operation imposes tighter limits on reliability and ease of

Davy Process Technology ensures that all these requirements are
managed within projects that in scale and value are major infrastructure
contracts. The new designs of very large methanol plants are so reliable
that they increase plant availability and as cost effectiveness is directly
related to plant availability this is the motivation to improve process

Further economic improvements will derive from integrating reforming,
methanol synthesis and conversion to olefins. These developments must
be coupled with detailed design of all the component parts so that proven
reliability is built in. Davy Process Technology has the reputation for
supplying the most commercially attractive methanol process technology
and is actively working to extend both size range and process flexibility.
We are determined to stay in the vanguard of these developments and will
continue to work with the major plant operators to deliver the most cost
effective process solutions.


The predominant chemical used for methanol is as the raw material for acetic acid and formaldehyde production, an important
component in the manufacture of urea formaldehyde resins for the construction industry. It is also used as a solvent, a fuel and
in power generation. It is also seen as a future intermediate in the production of olefins (MTO). Technologies are also available
for the conversion of methanol to dimethyl ether (DME) which can be used as a fuel either in a gas turbine or a power station.

Methanol Production Offshore

Davy Process Technology is working with a group of clients who are interested in taking methanol technology offshore to
access new gas sources. For such clients we can offer a variety of solutions:-

All the major technical and safety issues have been addressed and satisfactory solutions have been found for catalyst
loading/unloading in a ship environment. Equipment optimisation has been completed with innovative integration into a
commercial flow sheet capable of producing 2,500 tonnes/day of methanol. If a project has gas and offshore operation is an
option, then the first consideration is the type of structure. There are two basic types that are appropriate: a fixed system such
as a CGS (Concrete Gravity Structure) and an FPSO (Floating Production, Storage and Offloading).

Fixed Platform

A CGS becomes in effect an artificial island. The structure can be
constructed in a yard and then floated to the location where it is to be sited.
This can be done with the process equipment in place which enables
construction to take place in a low construction cost location. Once at the
production location the GCS is ballasted to sink it into place. This type of
structure therefore requires relatively shallow water near to the gas well

An example of a project that is following this approach is the Methanol
Australia project that is planned to be located on the Tassie Shoal. For this
type of structure the topside weight is not a major issue as it is supported
from the sea bed. There is also no limit to the plot space available and therefore no particular limit to the size of plant that can
be built on this type of structure. Additional plot is expensive and so technologies that minimise plot space are still desirable.
On the CGS, the process unit will be deck mounted with the utilities below deck and the storage of methanol within the CGS.
As the GCS is fixed to the sea bed, vessel motion is not an issue and therefore any of the synthesis gas technologies presented
above could be used on this type of structure.

Floating Production

A FPSO is in effect a boat with all that is necessary to produce the oil, gas and
methanol contained on it. The vessel will have a mooring system to hold it in
place, gas processing, methanol production, utilities, product storage and
accommodation for the crew and operators. The process plant and utilities will
be installed on the topside with storage below deck. This vessel is readily
movable and therefore is suited to use on fields with limited lives. In addition
MFPSOs can beneficial where there is perceived country risk and the operator
wants to have the ability to move its plant assets to alternative locations. The
MFPSO is a boat and therefore space and weight are substantially more
important than for a CGS. In addition the vessel will be subject to motion and
this needs to be carefully considered when selecting the process technology.

In general it is expected that the MFPSO option will have a higher cost than the CGS and therefore if the water depth and field
life is sufficiently long we would expect a fixed platform to be the first choice. Vessel motion, weight and space are the key
considerations for MFPSO plants. Most methanol plants involve the use of a steam reformer be it in a conventional or
combined reforming process. Steam reformers are large and heavy items and the refractory systems and unrestrained tube
systems mean that they are not suitable for the movement that can be experienced on a FPSO. The very large fired heater
necessary for autothermal reforming is also not suited to such movement. This leaves two technologies that can be adapted for
use on a FPSO: Compact Reforming and Gas Heated Reforming. These technologies also have the benefit of saving both
space and weight. As mentioned earlier the compact reformer can accommodate gas with high levels of CO2 without the need
for CO2 removal and is therefore particularly suited to processing of high CO2 gas on a FPSO.

Floating Distillation

An operator who is considering an offshore project will also have to consider
if the project should refine the methanol on the FPSO. If the methanol is to be
used only for MTO applications it may not be necessary to perform any
distillation. If the entire production is going to pass through a single terminal,
the methanol could be refined at the terminal before being distributed to
customers. These options would reduce the size and weight of the topsides
required, however it would require the additional weight of the water in the
crude to be shipped in the product. This may add to the shipping weight
depending on the production technology used. The operator may wish to be
able to transport material directly from the FPSO to their customers and in
this case offshore refining will be needed.