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Advanced selective dewatering membranes in FT synthesis

Microporous (methylated) silica membranes have shown to have very good performance in the dehydration of organics via pervaporation and in the separation of methanol from heavier organic molecules. Due to this and their low energy consumptions they can be combined with or replace conventional distillation processes. Polymeric pervaporation membranes are already used commercially and have shown that there is a big potential and market.

However, these membranes are not very stable in several potential applications. Microporous ceramic membranes have a much better performance and stability and will therefore create and be used in a much larger and broader market. For example the membranes can be used in the separation of hydrogen and/or water from gaseous mixtures or in vapour permation mode to separate water from organics.
The ceramic membranes are made in a tubular geometry, with lengths up to 1 meter. The membrane layer is applied on a ceramic substrate, which is a commercial product. The coating techniques of making the microporous membranes are developed so that industrial scale production possible and membranes with a good quality have been obtained using a robotised technique. Membrane modules have been made up to 5 m2, they have been tested and showed good performance under relevant conditions. The module designs are still being optimised based upon new insights by pilot scale and full scale testing.

The market for the inorganic membranes will first be in rather simple (end-of-pipe) dehydration of organics either via pervaporation or vapour permeation, which is already a multi million Euro market. Much more potential is in the integration of the separation membrane with reactions, thereby making better products by cheaper production methods, and in process-integrated applications. One of these options is the use of the membranes in dewatering during a Fischer Tropsch synthesis. The market should be opened and convinced via the industrial scale production and pilot scale demonstration, followed by full-scale implementation.

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