DENVER—Rentech Inc. has announced that ITN Energy Systems Inc. (ITN) of Wheatridge, Colorado, of which Rentech holds a 10 percent passive interest, was recently notified by the Department of Energy (DOE) that it has been selected for a proposed $2.3 million DOE award for the development of a “novel ceramic membrane to separate hydrogen from fossil fuel gas streams,” under the DOE Vision 21 program. (Through previous contractual arrangements with ITN Energy Systems, Rentech owns an additional 20 percent of ITN’s ceramic membrane technology in addition to its 10 percent passive ownership in ITN).

Under the project title, “Novel Composite Membranes for Hydrogen Separation in Gasification Processes in Vision 21 Energy Plants,” ITN, with Idaho National Engineering Environmental Laboratory, Idaho Falls, Idaho; Nexant, San Francisco; Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill.; and Praxair Inc., Danbury, Conn., “propose a novel approach to hydrogen separation membrane technology where fundamental engineering material development is fully integrated into fabrication designs, combining functionally graded materials, monolithic module concept and plasma spray manufacturing techniques. The technology is based on the use of Ion Conducting Ceramic Membranes (ICCM) for the selective transport of hydrogen. The membranes will consist of composites of a proton conducting ceramic and a second metallic phase to promote electrical conductivity. The program will develop and evaluate composite membranes and catalysts for hydrogen separation. Components of the monolithic modules will be fabricated by plasma spray processing. The ICCM hydrogen separation technology is targeted for use within the gasification module of the Vision 21 fossil fuel plant. The proposed technology also results in a stream of pure carbon dioxide. This allows for easy sequestration or other use of this greenhouse gas.”

Dennis Yakobson, Rentech chairman, president and CEO stated, “We are very excited for ITN and their involvement in the Vision 21 program. The development of this important hydrogen separation technology could also be significant in furthering the overall implementation of the Rentech Fischer-Tropsch gas-to-liquids process, which, in itself, is a key component of the Texaco led Early Entrance Co-Production project, also a part of the Vision 21 program. A low cost method to separate hydrogen from carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide has long been sought as a way to make Fischer-Tropsch even more cost competitive. The technology could reduce syngas production costs, while providing a means for increasing carbon dioxide utilization or sequestration leading toward further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The National Energy Technology Laboratory states, “Vision 21 is a new approach to energy production. The futuristic concept envisions a suite of highly advanced technology modules that can be customized to meet different energy markets.

“Vision 21 plants could process a wide range of fuels-coal, natural gas, biomass, municipal waste or perhaps mixtures of these fuels-and generate multiple energy products, such as electricity, fuels and chemicals. The ‘multi-fuel, multi-product’ capability is a significant departure from today’s energy plants that typically use a single fuel and produce a single product.

“Also, by incorporating the latest technological improvements, the department hopes to make Vision 21 plants nearly emission free. Wastes would be either recycled or turned into products such as fertilizer or commercial chemicals.”