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Economic Potential of Bio-Ethylene Production via Oxidative Coupling of Methane in Biogas from Anaerobic Digestion of Industrial Effluents

Teixeira Penteado, Alberto; Lovato, Giovanna; Pérez Ortiz, Abigail; Esche, Erik; Domingues Rodrigues, José Alberto; Godini, Hamid Reza; Orjuela, Alvaro; Gušča, Jūlija; Repke, Jens-Uwe

Brazil’s large biofuels industry generates significant amounts of effluents, e.g., vinasse from bioethanol, that can effectively be used as substrate for production of biogas via Anaerobic Digestion (AD). The Oxidative Coupling of Methane (OCM) is the heterogeneous catalytic oxidation of methane into ethylene, which is a main building block for the chemical industry. This work investigates the potential and competitiveness of bio-ethylene production via OCM using biogas produced by biological anaerobiosis of vinasse as a feedstock. The proposed process can add incentive to treat of vinasse via AD and replace fossil ethylene, thus potentially reducing emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHG). A process model is developed in Aspen Plus v10 software and used to design an economic Biogas-based Oxidative Coupling of Methane (Bio-OCM) process that consumes biogas and oxygen as educts and produces ethylene, ethane, and light off-gases as products. Operating conditions in the reaction section are optimized and a reaction product yield of 16.12% is reached by applying two adiabatic Packed Bed Reactors (PBRs) in series. For the downstream CO2 removal section, a standalone amine-absorption process is simulated and compared to a hybrid membrane-absorption process on an economic basis. For the distillation section, two different configurations with and without Recycle Split Vapor (RSV) are simulated and compared. The bio-ethylene production cost for a Bio-OCM plant to be installed in Brazil is estimated considering a wide range of prices for educts, utility, side products, and equipment within a Monte Carlo simulation. The resulting average production cost of bio-ethylene is 0.53 ±0.73 USD kgC2H4-1. The production cost is highly sensitive to the sales price assigned to a light off-gas side-product stream containing mostly the un-reacted methane. A sales price close to that of Brazilian pipeline natural gas has been assumed based on the characteristics of this stream. The Monte Carlo simulation shows that a bio-ethylene production cost below or equal to 0.70 USD kgC2H4-1 is achieved with a 55.2% confidence, whereas market values for fossil ethylene typically lie between 0.70USD kgC2H4-1–1.50USD kgC2H4-1. Technical and economic challenges for the industrial implementation of the proposed Bio-OCM process are identified and relevant opportunities for further research and improvement are discussed.
Published in: Processes, 10.3390/pr9091613, MDPI