Atlas Methanol Production Plant, Point Lisas, Trinidad and Tobago


A 1.7mtpa methanol plant, said to be the one of world's largest single-train methanol plants, was brought on stream during the final quarter of 2004.

The plant, which is located at Point Lisas, in Trinidad and Tobago, is owned by Atlas Methanol Company, a joint venture between Canada's Methanex (63.1%) and BP Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT) (36.9%).

The Atlas plant was built adjacent to the existing Titan Plant, which operates on oxygen reforming technology for methanol production with a capacity of 850,000tpa. Average total methanol production from the plants is 2.5 million tpa, which makes Trinidad and Tobago the world's leading methanol exporter.

The production is exported to the Western European and North American methanol markets. According to the main contractor Lurgi, the project execution was completed in less than three years.

Technology

The methanol plant is based on MegaMethanol technology, which was developed and supplied by German-based engineering contractor Lurgi. This is said to be the first methanol plant in the world to use this technology.

"Average total methanol production from the plants is 2.5 million tpa, which makes Trinidad and Tobago the world's leading methanol exporter."

The plant has an on-site air separation plant which has a pure oxygen production capacity of 2,800t per day. The technology is developed for methanol capacities larger than one million metric tons per annum. Natural gas is converted to methanol in large quantities at reduced costs using MegaMethanol process technology.

The technology enables construction of efficient single-train units with large production capacities of methanol economically. The process has low emissions and high energy efficiency.

Process technology

The MegaMethanol production process consists of oxygen-blown synthesis gas reforming; a two-step Lurgi methanol synthesis and changing the syngas composition with hydrogen recycle.

The oxygen-blown natural gas reforming is used in autothermal reforming mode. Oxygen is used as a reforming agent and the pre-reformed and desulphurised feedstock is reformed with steam to synthesis gas at a pressure of about 40 bar.

The process produces a carbon-free synthesis gas and can be used with an operating flexibility for a wide range of requirements. The reformer outlet temperatures range from about 950°C to 1,050°C. The synthesis gas is then compressed using a single casing gas compressor. An integrated recycler in the compressor generates the pressure for the methanol synthesis.

The methanol reactor contains a fixed number of tube sheets in which the catalyst is added. Steam produced in the heat reaction and the pressure are controlled as required. The isothermal reactor enables partial conversion of the syngas to methanol, reduces the by-products produced during the process and increases the yields at low recycle ratios. A gas-cooled reactor is combined in series with the reactor.

The gas containing methanol from the first reactor is transferred to a second downstream water-cooled reactor where cooling takes place. Equilibrium driving force for methanol synthesis is maintained and is passed through the catalyst tubes.

"Lurgi claims that its MegaMethanol process gives its clients a clear competitive advantage."

The spurge gas is separated and the cooled crude methanol is processed in the distillation unit. The distillation of crude methanol takes place in an energy efficient three-column distillation unit through which about 40% of the heating steam is saved. Splitting of the refinery columns allows very high capacities using single-train systems.

The technology allows for the production of 5,000t/d of methanol compared with conventional plants which produce between 2,000t/d and 2,800t/d.

Lurgi claims that its MegaMethanol process gives its clients a clear competitive advantage.

Stainless steel pipes

Heavy wall stainless steel welded pipes were supplied for the Atlas Methanol plant by Inoxtech. Based in Italy, the company has been producing stainless steel welded pipes since 1992.

Inoxtech provided some of the 4,060t of piping that the methanol production plant required.

Electrical installation

The Electrical Division of Trinidad's Hadco supplied electrical components, including transformers and cables. Lezama Electrical Services was appointed as the electrical contractor.

Electronics and instrumentation

Insertech (Caribbean) Ltd was appointed to provide electronic and instrumentation installation for the air separation plant which was built by Air Products and Chemicals. The unit supplies in excess of 2,800t/d oxygen and 1,000t/d of nitrogen to the methanol plant.