Pilot demonstration and field development design of non-cryogenic low-cost helium production (22.RP1.0135)

Global demand for helium has been growing for over a decade due to its importance in many applications central to modern economies such as medical imaging, heat transfer at extreme temperatures, and compositional analysis. Helium is produced from certain natural gas reserves even though, when present, it typically occurs at concentrations of 0.1 % or less. Helium is not always recovered, however, because conventional production methods require cryogenic processing at temperatures below -196 °C, making them uneconomic for small-scale gas reserves. Recently, UWA researchers patented a novel process, known as Cascade Dual Reflux Pressure Swing Adsorption (CDR PSA), for the low-cost, non-cryogenic recovery of helium from natural gas that is well-suited to smaller-scale gas reserves.

A pilot-scale pressure swing adsorption (PSA) facility, capable of demonstrating the novel CDR PSA helium-recovery process, has been constructed and is being prepared for operational testing. The objectives of this Proposal are to: (i) demonstrate the ability of this non-cryogenic process to enrich feeds with 1 % helium or less to a purity of 99.99% with a recovery of 95%, and validate the results of existing process simulations with these testing data; (ii) develop a costed skid design (±30%) for a modular CDR PSA rig capable of being readily deployed for field development. These outcomes will have the following impact: demonstration of the novel helium recovery process at TRL-6, and a costed design for a CDR PSA rig that is transportable for helium field development.

Partners: The University of Western Australia, Mineral Resources Limited

Project Researchers: Dr Gongkui (James) Xiao, Prof Eric May

Duration: 12 months

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