CHBE Pandas

Clean Monetization of Shale Gas


Member profile details

Membership level
2011-2012 Team
Team Name
CHBE Pandas
Project Title
Clean Monetization of Shale Gas
Design Challenge
Project required a design of a self-sufficient chemical plant to upgrade raw natural gas from a shale gas field and clean water used in hydraulic fracturing. The goal is to improve the quality of life for people in the Sichuan Basin in China, while producing a useful product and being environmentally responsible.
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Design Summary
In response to the project goals, we designed an integrated chemical plant to produce methanol, hydrogen (a by-product of methanol synthesis), carbon disulfide (CS2), a small quantity of sulfur, and electricity.

Our power plant is a combined-cycle plant which is able to provide enough energy to sustain our entire plant as well as provide excess electricity which we provide for free to the community. Our motivation for the above products stemmed from the fact that currently, China is one of the world's largest users of fuel-grade methanol. The Sichuan Basin is also a major textile producer and agricultural area. This means that the hydrogen we produce can be sold as a feedstock to the many ammonia plants in the area. CS2 is a component in rayon and other textile polymer production along with some pesticides and insecticides. In fact, China currently consumes 50% of the world's production of CS2.

Our choice of CS2 production also resulted out of the fact that the natural gas extracted from the Sichuan Basin is extremely high in hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which is a major issue to be dealt with. We are taking the poisonous H2S and converting it into a useful product. All three of these chemical products, along with the excess electricity produced, are valuable resources in China, specifically in the Sichuan Area.

Within the design of the chemical plant, we considered utility and power usage along with environmental concerns related to hydraulic fracturing wastewater and noxious emissions. Our plant has been fully heat integrated to minimize cooling utilities and completely eliminate the need for outside heating utilities.

The produced flowback water from the hydraulic fracturing used to extract the natural gas also is a feedstock to our plant. This water contains 95% water, 4.5% sand, 0.49% fracking chemicals, and 0.01% salts from the shale formation. To treat this water, we first mechanically remove the sand. Then the stream is sent through a 2-stage evaporation process to remove virtually all of the chemicals and salts. The resulting steam is sent into our methanol synthesis (which actually provides the heat needed for the evaporator).

The methanol synthesis is different from standard methanol synthesis because we used a mixture of the traditional wet reforming, along with dry reforming instead of autothermal reforming. This is because our stream also had a very high CO2 content that we did not want venting to the atmosphere.

Overall, our plant is capital intensive (about $5 billion) due to the expensive materials needed to handle the high H2S content, but is able to break even within 8.5 years with an ROI of about 36%.
  • Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Dr. Kenneth Cox
Faculty Advisor 2 - Name
Professor Richard Strait
Award(s) and Recognition
Excellence in Engineering Design Award at the 2012 Brown School of Engineering Engineering Design Showcase and Poster Competition

Contact us

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK


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