FIELD OF THE INVENTION
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The subject matter described herein generally relates to a method and a system for producing plasma from a polar liquid and particularly relates to an electrochemical method of producing plasma from a polar liquids such as water, alcohol etc., inside a dielectric medium.
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Plasma is essentially defined as a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. Plasma contains charged particles such as positive ions, electrons, or negative ions. Ionization can be induced by various means, such as a strong electromagnetic field applied with a laser or microwave. The production of plasma inside any medium usually requires very harsh conditions. In general, electrical breakdown in liquid such as water and oil requires extremely high voltage and a very strong electric field.
The presence of plasma may allow various chemical reactions to take place at much lower temperatures than would otherwise be required. For example, it is known to use plasma in the gasification of municipal waste, biomass or other substances. The resultant mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas can then be synthesized into synthetic fuels, using known processes.
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring mixture of hydrocarbons and smaller amounts of organic compounds containing heteroatoms such as sulfur, oxygen, nitrogen and metals, generally nickel and vanadium. The petroleum products obtained from processing crude oil may vary considerably according to market demand, crude oil quality, and refinery objectives. In current industrial practices, crude oils are distilled under atmospheric pressure and vacuum. The distillation fractions, including the residual fractions, may undergo further catalytic refining processes in order to produce high value products.
Varieties of physical and chemical processes are known to produce higher value hydrocarbon products. These processes include fractionation, isomerization, bond dissociation, reformation, purification and hydrogenation. These processes tend to require extreme conditions such as high pressures and temperatures, which are energy-intensive. Catalysts are usually employed in these processes for various reasons including, but not limited to, reducing the temperatures and pressures at which hydrocarbon conversion reactions take place. Attempts have been made to find new classes of catalysts or reactor types that would significantly lower the process parameters, while increasing the hydro processing efficiency but the progress made thus far is mostly small improvements over existing catalyst systems.
There have also been few attempts to utilize electrochemical means to hydro process petroleum streams. PCT Application No. WO2009/082467 A1 discloses a method for desulphurizing sulfur containing petroleum streams by utilizing an electrochemical apparatus. However, this method relies on the increased electro-conductive properties of bitumen at elevated temperatures or addition of electrolytes for other non-conductive liquids such as low sulfur automotive diesel oil (“LSADO”), as well as a hydrogenation catalyst.
Syngas contains varying amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Syngas is used as an intermediate in producing synthetic petroleum for use as a fuel or lubricant via the Fischer-Tropsch process and the Mobil methanol-to-gasoline process. Syngas consists primarily of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and often some carbon dioxide. Although syngas has less than half the energy density of natural gas, syngas is combustible and often used as a fuel for internal combustion engines or as an intermediate for the production of other chemicals.
Syngas may be produced by various known methods, including steam reforming of natural gas or liquid hydrocarbons to produce hydrogen, the gasification of coal, biomass, and in some types of waste gasification facilities. These methods usually require extreme conditions, like high temperature and pressure. Syngas has also been produced from high temperature solid oxide fuel cells such as the method described in U.S. Patent Application No. 2008/002338 A1. However existing art suffers from many limitations. It requires use of purified carbon monoxide or dioxide and is incapable of handling any other feedstock. Water must be introduced as steam and must be preheated to a temperature between 500° C. and about 1200° C. Electrodes will participate in the reaction and will be reduced. Additionally, a high temperature environment will require specialized ceramic electrolyte compositions such as yttria stabilized zirconia.
In light of growing energy needs and the depletion of conventional energy sources, there is considerable effort being expended to devise new, efficient and green sources of energy; improve existing energy sources to provide more efficient energy sources; and improve methods of producing energy sources
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OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to methods and systems of producing plasma from a polar liquid under relatively benign conditions of temperature and pressure. The plasma may be used to convert hydrocarbons into useful products or intermediates.
In one aspect, the invention may comprise a method of producing plasma from a polar liquid comprising the steps of:
providing at least one dielectric medium in contact with the polar liquid, such that an interface forms between the liquid and the medium; and
creating an electric potential across the interface to produce plasma from the polar liquid inside the dielectric medium.
In another aspect, the invention may comprise a method of processing a hydrocarbon feedstock by producing plasma from a polar liquid comprising the step of:
providing the polar fluid in contact with the hydrocarbon feed stock, such that an interface forms between the polar fluid and hydrocarbon feedstock;
creating an electric potential across the interface producing plasma from the polar liquid inside the hydrocarbon feedstock; and
collecting any products obtained from the resulting hydrocarbon conversion.
In yet another aspect, the invention may comprise a method of producing hydrogen or carbon monoxide, or both hydrogen and carbon monoxide, comprising the steps of: