Oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) is a process to directly convert methane into ethylene. However, its ethylene yield is limited in conventional reactors by the nature of the reaction system. In this work, the integration of different membranes to increase the overall performance of the large-scale oxidative coupling of methane process has been investigated from a techno-economic point of view. A 1D membrane reactor model has been developed, and the results show that the OCM reactor yield is significantly improved when integrating either porous or dense membranes in packed bed reactors. These higher yields have a positive impact on the economics and performance of the downstream separation, resulting in a cost of ethylene production of 595–625 €/tonC2H4
depending on the type of membranes employed, 25–30% lower than the benchmark technology based on oil as feedstock (naphtha steam cracking). Despite the use of a cryogenic separation unit, the porous membranes configuration shows generally better results than dense ones because of the much larger membrane area required in the dense membranes case. In addition, the CO2
emissions of the OCM studied processes are also much lower than the benchmark technology (total CO2
emissions are reduced by 96% in the dense membranes case and by 88% in the porous membranes case, with respect to naphtha steam cracking), where the high direct CO2
emissions have a major impact on the process. However, the scalability and the issues associated with it seem to be the main constraints to the industrial application of the process, since experimental studies of these membrane reactor technologies have been carried out just on a very small scale.
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