Process Intensification (PI), which is defined as “any chemical engineering development that leads to a substantially smaller, cleaner, safer and more energy efficient technology”, is likely to be the next revolution of the chemical industry. The need for more efficient processes, including further flexible engineering designs and, at the same time, increasing the safety and environmental impact of these processes, is pushing the industry to novel research in this field. The chemistry and related sectors have already recognised the benefits of PI and estimate a potential for energy saving of about 1000 kilo tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) per year using these processes.
The technology of membrane reactor plays an important role in PI and is based on a device combining a membrane based separation and a catalytic chemical reaction in one unit. Every catalytic industrial process can potentially benefit from the introduction of catalytic membranes and membrane reactors instead of the conventional reactors. According to SusChem (European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry, Strategic Research Agenda 2005) more than 80% of the processes in the chemical industry worth approximately €1,500 billion, depend on catalytic technologies, and one the shorter-term (5-10 years) objectives of this Platform is to “integrate reactor-catalyst-separation design: integration and intensification of processes requires the development of new catalytic concepts which break down the current barriers (for example, low flux in catalytic membranes)”.
The DEMCAMER project proposes an answer to the paradigm met by the European Chemical Industry: increase the production rate while keeping the same products quality and reducing both production costs and environmental impacts. Through the implementation of a novel process intensification approach consisting on the combination of reaction and separation in a “Catalytic Membrane Reactor” single unit.
The aim of DEMCAMER project is to develop innovative multifunctional Catalytic Membrane Reactors (CMR) based on new nano-architectured catalysts and selective membranes materials to improve their performance, cost effectiveness (i.e.; reducing the number of steps) and sustainability (lower environmental impact and use of new raw materials) over four selected chemical processes ((Autothermal Reforming (ATR), Fischer-Tropsch (FTS), Water Gas Shift (WGS), and Oxidative Coupling of Methane (OCM)) for pure hydrogen, liquid hydrocarbons and ethylene production.
The DEMCAMER scheduled work plan will comprise activities related to the whole product chain: i.e. development of materials/components (membranes, supports, seals, catalyst,..) through integration/validation at lab-scale, until development/validation of four semi-industrial pilot scale CMRs prototypes. Additionally, three research lines dealing with: 1) the collection of specifications and requirements, 2) modelling and simulation of the developed materials and processes, and 3) assessment of environmental, health & safety issues -in relation to the new intensified chemical processes- will be carried out.
For a maximum impact on the European industry this research, covering the complete value chain of catalytic membrane reactors, can only be carried out with a multidisciplinary and complementary team having the right expertise, including top level European Research Institutes and Universities (8 RES) working together with representative top industries (4 SME and 5 IND) in different sectors (from raw materials to petrochemical end-users).
The DEMCAMER Project has been funded under FP7 Cooperation Specific Programme and Nanotechnologies, Materials and Processes NMP Theme. The Project has started the 1st of July of 2011 and it will last for 48 months.