Process Economics Program Report 190C
Advances in Membrane Technology for Chemical Separation Applications
Published: June 2001
Membrane separation process technology has an enormous variety of applications. During the last decade, there have been significant breakthroughs and incremental improvements for conventional applications in water and wastewater purification, industrial gas separations (H2, N2, CO2) and chlor-alkali electrolytic cells. However, there has been general disappointment in the commercial success of membranes for hydrocarbon processing, especially in olefins and aromatics processing. In this PEP report, we focus on commercial hydrocarbon separations using membranes, and review improvements in other fields of application (water and wastewater, industrial gases, chlor-alkali).
We also provide an assessment of the commercial status of existing industrial membrane applications, and we highlight recent developments in the industry that are likely to be commercialized in the near future. Three potential uses for membrane separations are examined in detail.
The report provides a techno-economic evaluation of the VaporSep process offered commercially by Membrane Technology and Research Company (MTR) for hydrocarbon separations in the petrochemical industry. The VaporSep process is used for condensing propylene monomer contained in purge gases (generally from polymer processing and storage tanks). We also evaluate other MTR applications using the basic technology platform provided by VaporSep.
The report also examines the use of membranes for industrial gas separations, primarily to produce high purity nitrogen and enriched oxygen. Membranes for hydrogen purification are also well commercialized. More recently, CO2 rejection membranes have been applied commercially in natural gas production.
We include a techno-economic evaluation of the Prism-Cactus membrane technology commercialized by Air Products & Chemicals for dehydrating methane during the production of natural gas. Prism-Cactus is similar to the Prism-Alpha process originally commercialized by Monsanto for removing hydrogen from ammonia plants.