Title:
HIGH TEMPERATURE EQUALIZED PRESSURE (HTEP) REACTOR
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Systems and methods are provided facilitating operation of a steam reformation process as part of a syngas production process. A steam reforming coil is placed inside a refractory lined pressure vessel, thereby allowing the pressure inside the pressure vessel to be controlled in accordance with the pressure in the steam reforming coil. By controlling an external pressure a wider range of materials can be employed to construct system apparatus. Further, a partial pressure operation can be conducted, where the chamber pressure is a ratio of the reforming coil pressure. Furthermore, apparatus can operate in a parasitic manner where, for example, produced syngas can be utilized to heat apparatus components and exhaust gas can power a turbine to compress feed air.



Inventors:
Jorgenson, Roger (Swanton, OH, US)
Application Number:
13/116912
Publication Date:
12/01/2011
Filing Date:
05/26/2011
Assignee:
RED LION BIO-ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES (Maumee, OH, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
48/197R
International Classes:
C10J1/207
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHANDLER, KAITY V
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
AMIN, TUROCY & WATSON, LLP (Beachwood, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system for producing syngas, comprising: a steam reforming coil, located within a chamber; and a control system, configured to: measure a pressure in the chamber; measure a pressure in the steam reforming coil; and adjust, based upon the measured chamber pressure and pressure measured in the steam reforming coil, the pressure in the chamber in accordance with the pressure in the steam reforming coil.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the control system measures the chamber pressure with measurements received from a pressure sensor located at the chamber.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein the control system measures the pressure in the steam reforming coil with measurements received from a pressure sensor configured to monitoring syngas production pressure.

4. The system of claim 1, the control system is further configured to determine a pressure differential between the chamber pressure and the pressure in the steam reforming coil.

5. The system of claim 4, the control system is further configured to adjust the chamber pressure when the pressure differential exceeds a given range.

6. The system of claim 5, the pressure differential is about 0.5 PSIG or less.

7. The system of claim 1, in the event that at least one of the chamber pressure or the pressure in the steam reforming coil indicate that the process is operating in a potentially unsafe manner, syngas production is ceased.

8. The system of claim 1, wherein the pressure in the steam reforming coil is a pressure utilized in production of syngas.

9. A method for controlling pressure within a chamber to facilitate high processing temperatures, comprising: measuring an internal pressure of a pipe; measuring an internal pressure of a pressure vessel incorporating the pipe; determining whether the internal pipe pressure and the internal pressure of the pressure vessel are equal; and in the event that the pressures are not equal, modifying the internal pressure of the pressure vessel in relation to the internal pipe pressure.

10. The method of claim 9, further comprising, in the event that the internal pipe pressure exceeds the internal pressure of the pressure vessel, increasing the internal pressure of the pressure vessel by forcing compressed air into the pressure vessel.

11. The method of claim 9, further comprising, in the event that the internal pipe pressure is less that the internal pressure of the pressure vessel, venting compressed air from the pressure vessel to reduce the pressure therein.

12. The method of claim 9, further comprising, maintaining a pressure differential between the internal pipe pressure and the internal pressure of the pressure vessel to a specific range.

13. The method of claim 12, the specific range is about 1 PSIG or less.

14. The method of claim 9, during normal operating conditions the internal pipe pressure ranges from atmospheric pressure to about 50 PSIG.

15. The method of claim 9, further comprising, passing gas and super heated steam through the pipe.

16. The method of claim 15, the gas is produced by gasification of biomass material.

17. The method of claim 15, further comprising heating the gas and super heated steam to a temperature facilitating break down of tars in the gas.

18. The method of claim 9, the internal pipe pressure and the internal pressure of the pressure vessel are determined by the physical properties of materials comprising the pipe, pressure vessel and associated apparatus for a particular processing temperature.

19. A computer readable storage medium comprising computer executable instructions that, in response to execution, cause a computing system to perform operations comprising: measuring an internal pressure of a pipe; measuring an internal pressure of a pressure vessel incorporating the pipe; determining whether the internal pipe pressure and the internal pressure of the pressure vessel are equal; and in the event that the pressures are not equal, modifying the internal pressure of the pressure vessel to equal the internal pipe pressure.

20. The computer readable storage medium of claim 19, the operations further comprising: maintaining a pressure differential between the internal pipe pressure and the internal pressure of the pressure vessel to a specific range.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent application Ser. No. 61/348,874 entitled “HIGH TEMPERATURE EQUALIZED PRESSURE (HTEP) REACTOR” and filed May 27, 2010, the entirety of which is incorporated by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The subject disclosure relates to operation of a steam reformation process as part of a syngas production process.

BACKGROUND

Owing to such factors as economics, energy, climate, geography, and political, considerable attention is being focused on “alternative” energies and technologies to ease human reliance on fossil fuels such as oil and coal. Generating fuel from “biomass” materials is one such alternative technology. Further, oil and coal are considered to be CO2 positive as their combustion puts CO2 back into the atmosphere that has been “out” of the carbon cycle for a considerable amount of time. However, with biomass, the CO2 has only been “locked up” in the plant for the lifetime of the biomass material, which is a considerably shorter time interval. Accordingly, production of fuels from biomass material(s) is considered to be a CO2 neutral process compared with fossil fuels.

Production of syngas from biomass and other carbonaceous materials (e.g., coal, pet coke, municipal solid waste, and the like) can involve gasification or pyrolysis of the biomass, etc., to produce gaseous elements and compounds, which are combined with super heated steam (a steam reformation process) to produce carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4), possibly some carbon dioxide (CO2) and various trace elements. The proportions of CO, H2, CH4, etc., can depend upon the specific reactants (steam) and conditions (temperatures and pressures) employed within a gasifier, and the processing/treatment steps which the gases undergo subsequent to leaving the gasifier. Unfortunately, an incomplete reduction of carbon compounds can occur, which produces syngas containing tars. The tars result from unbroken, long chain hydrocarbon compounds that are produced during pyrolysis of the biomass fuel. Tars can decrease the quality of syngas along with being deposited on plant equipment leading to various processing problems such as fouling, blockage, etc.

A means for reducing the volume of tars produced during syngas production is to perform the steam reformation process at higher temperatures than are conventionally used. With an increase in temperature, the hydrocarbons, that at lower processing temperatures form tars, are broken down to produce further CO, H2, etc.

However, higher processing temperatures can require processing equipment to be constructed from “exotic” materials having improved physical properties at elevated temperatures compared with cheaper materials such as steel and stainless steel. Such materials are INCONEL and INCOLOY, nickel-iron-chromium based metal alloys which have high-temperature strength, creep and rupture resistance. INCOLOY 800HT, in accordance with ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, is rated to safely handle temperatures of 1650° F. with pressures of 25 PSIG.

SUMMARY

A simplified summary is provided herein to help enable a basic or general understanding of various aspects of exemplary, non-limiting embodiments that follow in the more detailed description and the accompanying drawings. This summary is not intended, however, as an extensive or exhaustive overview. Instead, the sole purpose of this summary is to present some concepts related to some exemplary non-limiting embodiments in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description of the various embodiments that.

In one embodiment, the present invention presents a steam reforming coil located within a pressure vessel, wherein the pressure vessel is lined with refractory material. By incorporating the steam reforming coil within the pressure vessel a pressure can be applied in the pressure vessel, wherein the pressure is in the region of the pressure within the steam reforming coil. By having a pressure inside the steam reforming coil and the chamber being substantially equal, higher operating pressures and temperatures can be achieved which facilitate reduction of compounds in gas passing through the steam reforming coil, and accordingly a reduction in the volume of tars in the gas. In another embodiment, heat can be applied to air in the chamber by using closed heaters such as sealed end radiant tubes. In a further embodiment, by employing substantially equal pressures in both the steam reforming coil and the chamber, the stress on the steam reforming coil can be reduced thereby allowing inexotic materials to be employed, such as steel, stainless steel, etc.

In a further embodiment, pressure within the chamber can be controlled by controlling a volume of compressed air entering the chamber thereby increasing the chamber pressure, and accordingly by controlling the volume of compressed air exhausting from the chamber.

In an alternative embodiment, compressed air exhausting from the chamber can be utilized to drive a turbine which can be utilized to compress air prior to being pumped into the chamber. Accordingly, the exhaust gases can be converted into mechanical energy thereby increasing the efficiency of the syngas operation. In a further embodiment, as syngas is produced, a portion of the syngas can be captured and utilized as a source fuel for a burner employed to heat and compress air being pumped into the chamber. Such operation enables to the syngas production operation to be self-sustaining.

In an embodiment, a pressure vessel lined with refractory material can operate as a steam reforming chamber, whereby a mixture of gas and steam enter the chamber and are heated with closed heaters, such as sealed radiant tubes. Owing to the operating temperatures for steam reformation being contained by the refractory material in the chamber, the pressure vessel can be constructed from common materials such as steel, stainless steel and the like.

These and other embodiments are described in more detail below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various non-limiting embodiments are further described with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for equalizing pressure during the production of syngas.

FIG. 2 is a sectional view illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for equalizing pressure during the production of syngas.

FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment of a radiant heater providing heat during the production of syngas.

FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for controlling pressure during the production of syngas.

FIG. 5 is a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for monitoring and controlling pressure during the production of syngas.

FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment of a self sustaining/partial pressure reactor for production of syngas.

FIG. 7 is a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for operating under partial-pressure conditions.

FIG. 8 is a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for utilizing syngas as fuel.

FIG. 9 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment of a steam reforming chamber.

FIG. 10 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for operating a steam reformation process as part of syngas production.

FIG. 11 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for operating a steam reformation process as part of syngas production.

FIG. 12 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for controlling temperature of a steam reformation process as part of syngas production.

FIG. 13 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for controlling temperature of a steam reformation process as part of syngas production.

FIG. 14 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for controlling temperature of a steam reformation process as part of syngas production.

FIG. 15 illustrates an exemplary, non-limiting computing environment facilitating operation of one or more exemplary, non-limiting embodiments disclosed herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OVERVIEW OF HIGH TEMPERATURE AND HIGH PRESSURE STEAM REFORMATION PROCESS

The ability to operate the steam reformation process at higher pressures and temperatures can reduce the amount of tars produced during processing. As described herein, in various, non-limiting embodiments, a steam reforming coil is placed inside a refractory lined pressure vessel, thereby allowing the pressure inside the pressure vessel to equal or be within a range of that measured inside the steam reforming coil. Gaseous elements and compounds, produced by a prior pyrolysis process, are combined with super heated steam and passed through the steam reforming coil to facilitate production of CO, H2, etc. The steam reformation process is comparable to that employed in other non-combustive gasification processes but can operate at higher pressures and temperatures. Placing the steam reforming coil within the refractory lined pressure vessel enables operating pressures of about 50 PSIG and temperatures of about 2000° F. to be employed. Such elevated pressures and temperatures produce “cleaner” syngas, containing less tar, with higher yields of CO, H2, etc., than is produced with lower pressures and temperatures. Further, by minimizing the proportion of tars in a syngas it is possible to reduce, or eliminate, the need for a subsequent gas scrubbing process.

It is to be appreciated that while throughout the description to aid understanding of the various innovative aspects presented herein particular examples are provided, the examples should not be considered limiting. For example, while an operating pressure of about 50 PSIG and operating temperatures of about 2000° F. is presented as an example, operating conditions (e.g., pressures and temperatures) can depart from these values while still facilitating operation of the steam reformation process. Selection of particular temperatures and pressures values and/or ranges can be based on various processing parameters such as the physical properties of materials employed throughout systems presented herein, temperature and pressure relationships, system throughput (e.g., conditions required for syngas production, minimizing produced tars, etc.), process ramp up/ramp down, and the like. Accordingly, while an operating pressure in a steam reforming coil may in one instance of syngas production be about 50 PSIG, in another production run the pressure can be about 100 PSIG.

Reformation Process Utilizing Steam Reforming Coil

FIGS. 1 and 2, illustrate systems 100 and 200, depicting a high temperature equalized pressure reactor system 100 facilitating high pressures and temperatures to be employed during a steam reformation process. System 200 is a cross section of system 100 through X-X. A steam reforming coil 120, is located in pressure vessel 110, where the pressure of the pressure vessel chamber 112 can be controlled to be equal, substantially equal, or within an operating range of the internal pressure of reforming coil 120. The pressure vessel 110 is lined with refractory material 115 to contain the elevated temperatures employed during the steam reformation process. In one embodiment, heat for the steam reformation process can be provided by a plurality of radiant heaters 155a-N (e.g., sealed radiant tubes (SRT)) located throughout the pressure vessel.

Refractory material 115 (also 915 and 990a-900N, described infra) can be comprised of any material suitable for use at elevated temperature(s), where such materials includes various oxides (e.g., alumina, silica, magnesia, lime, zirconia, etc.), fire clays, and the like. Refractory materials can be in the form of blocks, bricks, blankets, and the like, as well in hand-molded/moldable, fired, castable, dry-pressed forms, wherein the refractory is attached to a supporting structure (e.g., pressure vessel wall 110, pressure vessel wall 910, etc.) with necessary anchors and other attaching means.

Pressurization of the pressure vessel 110, and accordingly, chamber 112 is facilitated by pump 160 (e.g., an air compressor) connected to compressed air inlet 125. Exhaustion of compressed air from chamber 112 can be facilitated via air outlet 130, with the compressed air being vented to the atmosphere or collected. Regulation of the air pressure within chamber 112 is provided by pressure regulating device 145 operating in conjunction with pump 160. Pressure in chamber 112 can be increased by restricting/preventing flow through pressure regulating device 145 while forcing air into the chamber 112 with pump 160. Alternatively, pressure in chamber 112 can be reduced by reducing/negating flow of air from pump 160 while opening the pressure regulating device 145 thereby allowing air to vent from chamber 112. Pressure inside the steam reforming coil 120 can be measured by pressure sensor 135, while the pressure inside chamber 112 can be measured by pressure sensor 140. Comparison of pressure reading(s) obtained from pressure sensor 140 and pressure sensor 135, respectively, can provide an indication of how equal or different the respective pressures are. A hot air exhaust muffler 150 can be incorporated into outlet 130 to facilitate minimal noise pollution while air is venting via outlet 130.

It is to be appreciated that FIGS. 1 and 2, and FIGS. 3, 4, 6 and 9, described infra, provide particular examples of process components employed and arranged in a steam reformation process, however, any suitable components and arrangement can be utilized. In FIGS. 1, 2, 4, and 6, while the steam reforming coil 120 is shown having a spiral configuration, the steam reforming coil 120 can be of any arrangement in accordance with operation of the steam reformation process. For example, the steam reforming coil 120 can be a straight pipe, concertina arrangement, and the like.

Accordingly, it is to be further appreciated that radiant heaters 155a-N can be of any number (N), size, and arrangement to facilitate operation of the heating process, where N is an integer greater than zero. For example, while in FIG. 2 heaters are respectively located at, 0°, 90°, 180°, and 270°, any number (N), and layout, of heaters can be utilized in accordance with operation of the steam reformation process.

In an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, the steam reforming coil 120 can be supported by a cradle 180 located on the internal refractory 115 and supports the steam reforming coil 120 in a manner allowing for thermal contraction and expansion of the steam reforming coil 120 as the steam reformation process undergoes various operating stages, e.g., brought up to operating temperature and pressure, steady-state operation, cooled down for maintenance, etc., while preventing undue movement of the steam reforming coil 120. Cradle 180 can be constructed from a material capable of handling the elevated temperatures and pressures encountered in the steam reformation process.

In a further, exemplary, non-limiting embodiment an internal cladding 190 can be incorporated into system 100. Cladding 190 can be employed to cover refractory material 115 to extend the usable lifetime of the refractory material 115.

The refractory 115 material has thermal properties enabling temperatures of about 2400° F. to be reached inside chamber 112 while the wall material of pressure vessel 110 will only experience a temperature of about 200° F. Use of a refractory 115 enables the pressure vessel 110 wall to be at a temperature lower than the chamber 112 temperature, thereby allowing the pressure vessel 110 to be constructed from common materials such as steel, stainless steel, and the like. Owing to the temperature of the pressure vessel wall 110 only experiencing temperatures of about 200° F., expensive high temperature materials, such as INCONEL, are not required to construct the pressure vessel 110 wall. Further, by ensuring that the pressures in chamber 112 and that inside the steam reforming coil 120 are equal, substantially equal, or within an operating range, the various thermal stresses experienced by the steam reforming coil 120 can be reduced in comparison with a steam reforming coil employed in a conventional system where the coil is not surrounded by a pressurized vessel (e.g., pressure vessel 110). Hence, by maintaining the observed internal pressure within the steam reforming coil 120 equal, substantially equal, or within an operating range, with that in the chamber 112 the tensile strength of the material used to construct the steam reforming coil 120 may not be of such importance. In one exemplary, non-limiting embodiment the steam reforming coil 120 can be constructed from cheaper materials such as steel, stainless steel, and the like. In another regard, whether steels or INCONELs are used, the burst pressure of the steam reforming coil 120 is not as critical as compared with conventional systems. Further, it is envisioned that by maintaining the chamber 112 pressure and the pressure within the steam reforming coil 120 to equal, or near-equal, values, the operating lifetime of the steam reforming coil 120 will be longer than the lifetime of a steam reforming coil being employed in a conventional process.

In an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, in view of the various conditions previously described, the pressure vessel 110 can be constructed and rated to operate at a standard working pressure and temperature. For example, the standard working pressure and temperature can be about 50 PSIG and 200° F., respectively.

Further, with conventional systems, solid matter can be introduced into the steam reforming coil which raises concern regarding erosion and abrasion of the internal walls of the steam reforming coil. As described herein, only gas from a previous pyrolysis process(es) and super heated steam are passed through the steam reforming coil 120 thereby significantly reducing problems arising from internal erosion and abrasion of the steam reforming coil 120.

Furthermore, as described herein (ref. FIG. 4) the pressure vessel 110 can be connected to a control system that regulates pressure in chamber 112 in accordance with the operating pressure of the entrained gas and steam passing through the steam reforming coil 120. In one aspect, the pressure differential between that measured in the steam reforming coil 120 and the chamber 112 can be regulated to within 0.5 PSIG of the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120. As described supra, pump 160 (e.g., an air compressor) can be utilized to provide compressed air into the chamber 112 in “lock-step” with the pressure of the entrained flow in the steam reforming coil 120.

In a related aspect, systems 100-400 and 600 (and similarly system 900) can be designed such that they form part of a modular design/approach to constructing a syngas production plant. For example, system 100 can be manufactured as a modular unit which is delivered to a site of operation and incorporated into a modular syngas production plant. Further, system 100 can be designed to be “plug-n-play” and incorporates all the necessary pipes, fixtures, fittings, etc., so that minimal field fitting is required. In one aspect, with the “plug and play” approach the only external connections that need to be made in the field are the steam reforming coil 120, inlet 125, outlet 130, and the heaters 155.

In another aspect, the chamber 110 (and similarly chamber 910) can be of a size to allow systems 100-400, 600, and 900 to be easily transported. For example, chamber 110 can be of a size capable of being transported by road as a standard wide load. In another example, system 100 can be of a size that can fit inside a standard shipping container to facilitate easy transport by rail, road, sea, air, etc.

As presented earlier, any suitable radiant heater can be employed as part of systems 100, 200, 400 and 900. One particular design of sealed radiant tube (SRT) is shown in FIG. 3, system 300. The SRT comprises a pair of concentric tubes 310 and 320, with fuel/flames being directed down the outer gap between the inner tube 310 and outer tube 320, and the exhaust is directed up and out of the inner tube 320. When heating of chamber 112 is conducted using a SRT, owing to combustion occurring within the SRT 300 there is no need for provision of an exhaust port to be incorporated into the pressure vessel (e.g., FIG. 1, pressure vessel 110) to facilitate exhaust of combustion products. Further, it is to be appreciated that any suitable type of fuel can be employed in the SRT 300. In an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, during startup of the steam reformation process, a combustible gas such as natural gas or propane can be used to fuel the SRT 300 (e.g., heaters 155a-N), and as syngas is produced by the process, a blend of syngas and combustible gas can fuel the SRT 300, and eventually, syngas can be employed to completely fuel the process. Such an operation of using combustible gas, combustible gas/syngas blend, and finally syngas only, facilitates operation of the steam reformation process as a standalone operation, whereby combustible gas is employed to start the steam reformation operation and eventually operate in a “parasitic” manner whereby a portion of the produced syngas is utilized to further drive the steam reformation process.

Turning to FIG. 4, illustrated is system 400, facilitating measurement and control of pressures in a high temperature equalized pressure reactor. A control system 410 can be employed to monitor and control respective pressures utilized in a steam reformation process as part of a syngas production process. Measurements of the respective pressures within the pressure vessel 110, chamber 112, and the pressure within the steam reforming coil 120 are received at control system 410 from respective pressure sensors 135 and 140. The received pressure measurements are processed to assess/determine the overall operating conditions as well as how similar they are, e.g., “is the pressure measured in the chamber 112 within 0.5 PSIG of the pressure measured in the steam reforming coil 120?” Pressure in chamber 112 can be controlled using pump 160 (e.g., an air compressor). The pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 is the system pressure of the syngas process and can be controlled by various apparatus located post-steam reformation, e.g., syngas process pressure controller 420. While not shown, control system 410 may comprise of the necessary apparatus and systems, e.g., hardware and/or software, to facilitate processing of signals from pressure sensors 135 and 140. Such apparatus and systems may include one or more processors for analysis of measurements and accordingly effect pressure control, along with any necessary data storage medium.

As the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 increases, the pressure in chamber 112 can be controlled by pump 160 and pressure regulating device 145. If the chamber pressure is too low, pump 160 can be employed to raise the pressure in the chamber 112. Where the chamber pressure is too high, the pressure can be released by opening the pressure regulating device 145.

As previously mentioned, in one exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, during steady-state operation of the steam reformation process, operating pressure within the steam reforming coil 120 can be about 50 PSIG. In another exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, control system 410 can control the pressure in chamber 112 to about 0.5 PSIG of the pressure within the steam reforming coil 120, e.g., 49.5 PSIG to 50.5 PSIG where the desired operating pressure is 50 PSIG. Pressure control can entail adjusting the pressure in the chamber by effecting appropriate control of pump 160 and/or pressure regulating device 145. Real time measurement(s) received from pressure sensor 135 can be utilized to effect real time control of the pressure in chamber 112.

In another exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, while real time measurement(s) are received at control system 410 from pressure sensor 135, a response time delay algorithm can be employed by control system 410 to facilitate analysis of whether the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 is within an acceptable range. For example, if a pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 is greater than a desired value (e.g., process is operating at a pressure greater than a safe operating pressure) the response time delay algorithm can, upon expiration of the time delay, take a second reading. In the event that the second reading is also at a pressure greater than a safe operating pressure, the pressure in the chamber 112 can be maintained at a safe operating pressure while a determination is made as to the cause of the increased pressure in the steam reforming coil 120. Alternatively, in another exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, where the second reading has a value for a safe operating pressure, the pressure in the chamber 112 can be set to the second value.

In another exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, control system 410 can operate with a timed-average algorithm whereby the average pressure reading within the steam reforming coil 120 is determined (e.g., from pressures measured at pressure sensor 135) and the chamber 112 pressure is adjusted to the timed-average value. Such a timed-average algorithm will allow the chamber 112 pressure to be adjusted to an averaged value as opposed to continually being adjusted to comply with an instant value measured at pressure sensor 135. Such an approach can facilitate smoother control of the pressure within chamber 112, where, rather than trying to match (or be within a particular range) an instantaneous pressure measured in the steam reforming coil 120, chamber 112 pressure can be adjusted at each generation of the timed average and thereby adjust to an averaged value rather than instantaneous values which may have a degree of variation and be prone to system “noise”.

It is to be appreciated that during steady state operation of the steam reformation process the pressure within the steam reforming coil 120 can be dependent upon the operation of the syngas process pressure controller 420. However, during initial startup of the steam reformation process, the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 can increase from a low pressure (e.g., atmospheric pressure) up to the operating pressure of the steam reformation process (e.g., about 50 PSIG). During the increase in pressure in the steam reforming coil 120, control system 410 can effect control of the pressure in chamber 112. In one exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, control system 410 can effect control of the chamber 112 pressure such that the chamber 112 pressure stays in “lock-step” with the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120. In another exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, the chamber 112 pressure can be controlled to stay within a desired range of the instant value measured at pressure sensor 135. In a further exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, the chamber 112 pressure can be controlled such that the chamber 112 pressure lags behind the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 by a predetermined amount. For example, the chamber 112 pressure can be set to be controlled to within a specific range of the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 (e.g., about 0.5 PSIG difference, about 1 PSIG difference, about 0.5 to about 1 PSIG difference, about 5 PSIG, etc.).

It is to further be appreciated that while certain operating values for pressure and temperature are presented herein, the operating values are exemplary. For example, while the chamber 112 pressure is desired to be within 0.5 PSIG of the pressure measured in the steam reforming coil 120, a greater range can be employed. One concern is the burst pressure of the steam reforming coil 120, where the burst stress on the steam reforming coil 120 can be a function of the difference between the pressure in coil 120 and the chamber 112 pressure. Where a pressure difference (ΔP) between the pressure in coil 120 and the chamber 112 pressure is measured at 0.5 PSIG the stresses on the coil 120 are lower than where ΔP is 15 PSIG (e.g., pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 is 50 PSIG and the chamber 112 pressure is 35 PSIG). However, the greater stresses may still be within the operating range of the steam reforming coil 120 for a given temperature. Further, during initial startup of the steam reformation process, the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 can be of any value ranging from atmospheric pressure through to the steady-state operating pressure or greater. Hence, at lower pressures present during the initial startup phase(s) an acceptable ΔP can be much greater than those desired during steady-state operation. It is to be appreciated that a range of suitable pressures and temperatures can be employed with the various system configurations presented herein, while selection of particular temperatures and pressures values and/or ranges are based on various processing parameters such as the physical properties of materials employed throughout systems 100-400, 600 and 900, temperature and pressure relationships, system throughput (e.g., conditions required for syngas production, minimizing produced tars, etc.), and the like. Accordingly, while an operating pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 may in one instance of syngas production be about 50 PSIG, in another production run the pressure can be about 100 PSIG.

Furthermore, during startup the temperature within the steam reforming coil 120 may initially be about 1600° F., while during steady-state conditions temperatures of upto about 2400° F. may be encountered. Therefore the envisaged temperature and pressures present during the various phases of syngas production can range from ambient temperature to 2400° F. and 0-100 PSIG respectively. Obviously, a major factor in selection of operating conditions is that the various components that comprise systems 100-400, 600, and 900 operate within their safe operating limits, and accordingly, operating conditions (e.g., temperature and pressure ranges/values) for the steam reformation process are selected with regard to the physical properties of the material components comprising systems 100-400, 600 and 900 at respective temperatures, pressures, and combinations thereof.

FIG. 5 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for monitoring and controlling chamber pressure in a steam reforming process as part of syngas production.

At 510, the steam reformation process is begun. Gaseous elements and compounds generated by a previous pyrolysis operation(s) are combined with super heated steam and passed through a steam reforming coil (e.g., steam reforming coil 120). The steam reforming coil is located inside a pressure vessel (e.g., pressure vessel 110), where the pressure inside the pressure vessel (e.g., chamber 120) can be controlled in accordance with the pressure inside the steam reforming coil. As the syngas operation ramps up the operating pressure throughout the syngas processing plant increases, with a corresponding increase in the pressure inside the steam reforming coil.

At 520, the pressure in the steam reforming coil (and other aspects of the syngas process) can be monitored by a line pressure gauge, e.g., pressure sensor 135. A pressure monitoring system, e.g., control system 410, can monitor the pressure recorded at the line pressure gauge 135 and compare it with pressure readings being received from a pressure sensor monitoring the internal pressure of the pressure vessel chamber, e.g., pressure sensor 140. As the line pressure increases the chamber pressure can be increased in lockstep by a compressor, or the like (e.g., pump 160), feeding compressed air into the chamber, e.g, via inlet 125. At 520 a determination can be made regarding whether the internal and external pressures are equal.

In one exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, an operating pressure of about 50 PSIG can be employed across the gasification process, with an according operating pressure of about 50 PSIG in the steam reforming coil. By equalizing the internal pressure of the steam reforming coil with the pressure in the pressure vessel chamber, the stresses placed on the steam reforming coil are reduced compared with a conventional process where there is no control of pressure external to the steam reforming coil. The lower stresses facilitate use of higher pressures and higher temperatures in comparison with conventional processes. In one exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, the steam reformation process can be operated up to 2400° F. The higher operating pressures and temperatures are advantageous, facilitating breakdown of syngas tars into smaller molecules, elements and compounds such as CO, H2, CO2, etc.

In another exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, once the syngas operation is proceeding under stable conditions, the pressure inside the steam reforming coil and the chamber pressure are to be maintained at about 50 PSIG, with a pressure differential maintained at about 0.5 PSIG. Pressure can be maintained by operating pump 160 to increase the chamber pressure, and/or opening pressure regulating device 145 to reduce the chamber pressure.

In the event that the pressures are substantially equal or within an acceptable operating range, the process returns to pre 520 for another pressure differential measurement(s) to be made.

At 530, in the event that the pressures are not substantially equal or out of acceptable range, a determination can be performed comparing the internal pressure of the steam reforming coil with the external pressure measured in the chamber, from which a pressure differential can be determined

At 540, based upon the measured pressures, and any determined pressure differential, a determination can be performed to ascertain whether the process is operating under safe conditions. In one exemplary, non-limiting embodiment the respective operating pressures can be measured to ensure that they are not outside of an acceptable operating range.

At 550, in the event that the process is determined to not be operating under safe conditions an appropriate response can be performed. For example, the operation can be stopped.

Returning to 540, in the event that the process is determined to be operating safely, an according adjustment of pressure 560 can be performed and the process returns to 520. In an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, the adjustment of pressure can involve employing the air compressor to increase the chamber pressure to match that being measured in the steam reforming coil. In another exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, if the pressure in the chamber exceeds the pressure measured in the steam reforming coil, a valve controlling pressure within the chamber can be opened, e.g., pressure control valve 145. The flow returns to 520 for further monitoring of the process.

“Partial Pressure” and “Parasitic” Reformation Processes

As previously presented, it is to be appreciated that a variety of suitable system configurations and components can be employed as part of the steam reformation process. A particular embodiment is presented in FIG. 6, where system 600 presents a configuration to facilitate “partial-pressure” operation of the steam reformation process. In previously discussed exemplary, non-limiting embodiments, the pressure within chamber 112 is controlled to be substantially equal to, or within an acceptable range of, the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120. System 600 operates with a lower, “partial-pressure” in chamber 112 compared to that in the steam reforming coil 120. For example, during operation of the steam reformation process, the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 may be at about 50 PSIG, while with the subject configuration, the chamber pressure may be only at 15 PSIG, resulting in pressure differential of 35 PSIG. Hence, by employing the partial pressure approach the pressure vessel 110 can be constructed from material which can withstand lower operating pressures. It is to be appreciated that, whatever “partial-pressure” conditions are chosen, those conditions are within acceptable operating conditions for the various components and materials comprising system 600. Further, by regulating the pressure in chamber 112 to below 15 PSIG, the pressure vessel 110 is not required to be stamped as a “pressure vessel”. Control of the “partial-pressure” conditions can be performed by controller 695, whereby controller 695 can obtain measurements from pressure sensor 135 which provides indication of the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120 and from pressure sensor 140 which provides indication of the pressure in chamber 112 (as shown by connecting line X). From the respective pressure measurements, controller 695 can control operation of pressure regulating device 145 and pump 160 to control the pressure in the chamber 112 in relation to the pressure in the steam reforming coil 120, as described above.

In a further exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, system 600 can operate in a “parasitic” manner, whereby exhaust gases can be utilized to pre-compress air, and syngas produced by the process can replace combustion gas, being fed to a compressed air burner 610 employed to pressurize and heat chamber 112. During startup, compressed air is provided to the compressed air burner 610 from pump 160, via air control valve 620. Combustible gas (e.g., propane or natural gas) is fed to the compressed air burner 610, via fuel source valve 630 and metering valve 640, with the resulting hot air from the burner 610 entering chamber 112 via inlet 650. As the steam reformation process proceeds, exhaust gas exits chamber 112 via outlet 130, pressure control valve 145, and hot air exhaust muffler 150 located on outlet pipe 660. Also located in outlet pipe 660 is a turbine 670, which, as exhaust gas exits from chamber 112, via outlet 130, turbine 670 is caused to rotate, which in turn compresses air in feed pipe 680. Turbine 670 comprises end 670a which includes suitable means for harnessing the flow of exhaust gases flowing out of chamber 112 and converting the exhaust gas flow into mechanical energy, for example, turbine 670 can comprise of vanes located at 670a. End 670b of turbine 670 comprises suitable means for compressing and forcing the air along feed pipe 680 to the air control valve 620, suitable means can comprise vanes similar to that found on a turbo charger in an internal combustion engine, or other suitable configuration. As the steam reformation process proceeds, the source of compressed air for the compressed air burner can be switched from pump 160 over to compressed air generated by turbine 670, with air control valve 620 being operated to facilitate switching from the pump 160 source to the turbo compressed air in pipe 680.

Operation of system 600 in such a “parasitic” manner can be performed by controller 695. In an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, controller 695 can monitor the amount of air being compressed by turbine 670 in accord with pressure measurements provided by pressure sensor 698. Controller 695, in response to compressed air being provided along pipe 680, can operate air control valve 620 switching compressed air from pump 160 to air compressed by turbine 670.

Further, as the steam reformation process (and the gasification process as a whole) proceeds, syngas is produced which can be utilized as a source of fuel for compressed air burner 610. During initial startup and operation of the steam reformation process combustible gas (e.g., propane or natural gas) fuels the compressed air burner 610. However, as the steam reformation proceeds, syngas thereby produced, can act as a fuel for the compressed air burner 610. As the steam reformation process proceeds the volume of combustion gas fueling compressed air burner 610 is replaced with syngas until a situation may be reached that the compressed air burner 610 is entirely fueled by the syngas thereby produced. The combination of compressed air being produced by turbine 670 and syngas providing fuel can result in system 600 operating either partially, or completely, as a self-sustaining reactor. Such self-sustaining operation can facilitate operation and production of syngas in remotes areas, whereby the compressed air burner 610 starts-up using a combustible gas fuel stored at the location of the process plant, and compressed air from pump 160, and then, under standard operating conditions, compressed air and fuel gas are sourced from the process plant itself, as described above.

Metering valve 640 can be employed to ensure the correct ratio between air entering via air control valve 620, and fuel gas from fuel source valve 630 to facilitate heating of air provided by pump 160 and/or compressed air from pipe 680. Compared to natural gas or propane, syngas may have a low British thermal unit (BTU), e.g., 150-450 BTU's per standard ft3. Such a lower heating value may be necessary to maximize operation of the turbine 670. However, owing to the lower BTU value, larger amounts of syngas may be required, in comparison with natural gas or propane, to meet the heating requirements of the steam reformation process proceeding in steam reforming coil 120. For example, the ratio of compressed air to syngas is 10:4 having an equivalent heating effect of compressed air to natural gas or propane with a ratio of 10:1.

Furthermore, while not shown, heat from the exhaust gas exiting chamber 112 can be captured and employed to preheat various components comprising the steam reformation process. For example, captured heat from the exhaust gas can be employed to generate steam for the steam reforming coil 120. In an alternative embodiment, the captured heat can be employed to preheat any air, fuel gas, etc. used to pressurize and/or heat chamber 112.

Further, controller 695 can be utilized to control which fuel, e.g., natural gas, propane, syngas, etc., is utilized as a source of fuel for compressed air burner 610. During operation of the steam reforming process controller 695 controls operation of fuel source valve 630 and metering valve 640 as described above. During initial startup fuel source valve 630 is set to facilitate combustible gases (e.g., propane or natural gas) being fed to compressed air burner 610. As the syngas becomes available controller 695 controls operation of fuel source valve 630 such that syngas is fed to compressed air burner 610. Further, controller 695 can control operation of valve 640 (as shown by connecting line Y) to ensure the correct ratio of compressed air and fuel gas as described above.

It is to be appreciated that system 600 facilitates the reclamation of different forms of energy from the steam reformation process. Along with providing syngas, thermal energy can be extracted, as well as mechanical energy (e.g., pressure).

FIG. 7 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for operating a steam reformation process under “partial pressure” conditions, as part of syngas production. At 710, the steam reformation process is commenced. Gaseous elements and compounds generated by a previous pyrolysis operation(s) are combined with super heated steam and passed through a steam reforming coil, e.g., steam reforming coil 120. The steam reforming coil is located inside a pressure vessel (e.g., pressure vessel 110), where the pressure inside the pressure vessel (e.g., chamber 120) can be controlled in relation to the pressure inside the steam reforming coil. As the syngas operation ramps up, the operating pressure throughout the syngas processing plant increases, with a corresponding increase in the pressure inside the steam reforming coil.

At 720, the pressure in the steam reforming coil (and other aspects of the syngas process) can be monitored by a line pressure gauge, e.g., pressure sensor 135. A pressure monitoring system, e.g., controller 695, can monitor the pressure recorded at the line pressure gauge to determine the system pressure in the steam reforming coil.

At 730, the pressure in the chamber can be controlled to be a portion of the pressure in the steam reforming coil. For example, the pressure in the steam reforming coil can be 60 PSIG while the pressure in the chamber can be controlled at a lower amount, e.g., 20 PSIG. By operating with a lower pressure in the chamber, the chamber can be constructed from material which can withstand lower operating pressures. In one exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, the ratio between the pressure in the reforming coil and the chamber pressure can be preset such that the pressure in the chamber is always a predetermined portion of the pressure in the steam reforming coil, e.g., 35%, 1/3, 1:4, etc. In another exemplary, non-limiting embodiment the pressure is the steam reforming coil can be of a predetermined amount, e.g., fixed at 50 PSIG while the chamber pressure can be set to another predetermined amount, e.g., fixed at 15 PSIG. and compare it with pressure readings being received from a pressure sensor monitoring the internal pressure of the pressure vessel chamber, e.g., pressure sensor 140. As the line pressure increases the chamber pressure can be increased in lockstep by a compressor, or the like (e.g., pump 160), feeding compressed air into the chamber, e.g., via inlet 125. At 720 a determination can be made regarding whether the internal and external pressures are equal.

FIG. 8 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for operating a steam reformation process in a “parasitic” manner, as part of syngas production. At 810, the steam reformation process is commenced. Gaseous elements and compounds generated by a previous pyrolysis operation(s) are combined with super heated steam and passed through a steam reforming coil (e.g., steam reforming coil 120). The steam reforming coil is located inside a pressure vessel (e.g., pressure vessel 110), where the pressure inside the pressure vessel (e.g., chamber 112) can be controlled in relation to the pressure inside the steam reforming coil. As the syngas operation ramps up the operating pressure throughout the syngas processing plant increases, with a corresponding increase in the pressure inside the steam reforming coil.

At 820, external fuel (e.g., propane or natural gas) is utilized to heat compressed air which is fed into the pressure vessel chamber to facilitate heating of the steam reforming coil.

At 830, as syngas becomes available, a proportion of the external fuel utilized to heat the compressed air can be replaced with syngas. For example, as production of syngas increases, e.g., the operating conditions of the syngas production ramp up to steady state conditions, syngas is produced and becomes available. An amount of syngas can be collected.

At 840, the collected syngas can be utilized as fuel for the compressed air burner, thereby reducing the volume of external fuel required to facilitate subsequent operation of the steam reformation process and the syngas production process as a whole.

High Temperature and High Pressure Steam Reformation Chamber

While the various previously presented exemplary, non-limiting embodiments (e.g., systems 100, 400, and 600) comprise a steam reforming coil (e.g., steam reforming coil 120) located in chamber (e.g., chamber 110), with the steam reformation process occurring in the steam reforming coil, in a further exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, a steam reforming coil is not utilized. As shown in FIG. 9, a pressure vessel 910 lined with refractory material 915 can be utilized in the steam reformation process, where pressure vessel 910 and refractory material 915 are similar to pressure vessel 110 and refractory material 115, respectively, in terms of function, construction and materials. In a manner similar to that utilized in systems 100 and 400, chamber 912 can be heated by a plurality of heaters 155a-N, where N is a positive integer. However, unlike systems 100 and 400, rather than heating air which further heats a steam reforming coil transporting gaseous elements (for breakdown into syngas) and super heated steam, heaters 155a-N heat the gaseous elements and super heated steam directly and hence system 900 acts as a steam reforming chamber. With system 900, the gaseous elements and the super heated steam (hereinafter gas/steam mixture) are fed directly into chamber 912, via inlet 950, and flow out of chamber 912 via outlet 960. In an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, a plurality of baffles 930a-N (where N is a positive integer) can be incorporated into the pressure vessel 910 to facilitate flow of the gas/steam mixture through the chamber 912 thereby ensuring that the gas/steam mixture is heated throughout and no deadspots occur in chamber 912.

Chamber 912 (and accordingly pressure vessel 910 and refractory material 915) is of a size to facilitate a volume of gas/steam mixture entering chamber 912 at time G and having a temperature R, after passage through chamber 912, is heated to temperature S and held at that temperature for a period of time H. In an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, pressure vessel 910 can be 48″ diameter with approximately 6″ of refractory material insulation 915 and owing to the corresponding increase in cross sectional area of the chamber volume 912 compared with a 6″ diameter pipe, 2500 ft of 6″ pipe is required compared with a pressure vessel 910, refractory 915 and according chamber 910 of 80 feet in length with a 48″ (4 feet) diameter. Monitoring of operation of the chamber can be performed by controller 925 monitoring temperature sensors 920a-N, pressure sensor 135, and pressure sensors 935a-N. It is to be appreciated that temperature sensors 920a-N and pressure sensors 935a-N can be of any number and location to facilitate monitoring of the operating conditions in the chamber 912.

Flow of the gas/steam mixture through chamber 912 is a function of the respective volumes of gas and steam in the gas/steam mixture. The volume of gas can be affected by the volume of feedstock introduced into a syngas operation performed prior to the gas/steam mixture entering chamber 912, and the amount of steam added to the gas prior to the gas entering chamber 912. Hence, in an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, the size of pressure vessel 910, and accordingly chamber 912, is a function of the volume of gas/steam mixture flowing through chamber 912, the desired temperature increase to be achieved for the gas/steam mixture and the time at which the gas/steam mixture is to be held at a particular temperature. As described, in an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, pressure vessel 910 can be of any suitable size, as required by the operating conditions (e.g., volume of feedstock, volume of steam, etc.), and is illustrated in FIG. 9 with sections S indicating the variable dimension of pressure vessel 910 and refractory material 915.

Similar to systems 100, 400 and 600, by lining pressure vessel 910 with refractory material 915, the high operating temperatures of the steam reformation process are contained in the chamber 912 thereby enabling the pressure vessel 910 to be constructed from common materials such as steel, stainless steel, and the like.

In a further, exemplary, non-limiting embodiment an internal cladding 970 can be incorporated into system 900. Cladding 970 can be employed to cover refractory material 915 to extend the usable lifetime of the refractory material 915. During operation, gas/steam mixture flows from inlet 950 to outlet 960, as mentioned the gas/steam mixture may contain tars, long-chain carbon compounds, impurities, etc., which can be deposited, or find ingress into the refractory material 915. By cladding refractory material 915 with cladding 970, it is anticipated that the amount of tars, impurities, etc., which can potentially come into contact with the refractory material 915 is reduced, thereby extending the usable life of the refractory material 915.

Further, while the volume of chamber 912 can remain fixed (e.g., size of pressure vessel 910 is fixed, volume of refractory material 915 is fixed) a system of redundant heaters 155a-N (e.g., sealed radiant tube heater(s), system 300) can be utilized to facilitate adjustment of the conditions within the chamber 912 in accord with the volumes of gas/steam mixture, flow of gas/steam mixture, desired operating temperatures, desired holding temperature and at-temperature timing, etc. Controller 925 can monitor the various temperatures encountered in the chamber 912 (e.g., with thermocouples 920a, 920b, . . . 920N), temperature of the incoming gas/steam mixture (e.g., with thermocouple 920d), temperature of outgoing gas/steam mixture (e.g., with thermocouple 920c) and based thereon can control operation of heaters 155a-N. In one exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, controller 925 can supplement operation of a plurality of heaters, e.g., heaters 155a-155c and 155e-155g, with a number of redundant heaters, e.g., heaters 155d and 155N, to facilitate heating of the gas/steam mixture when the flow rate of the gas/steam mixture in increased from a first, slower, rate, to a second, faster, rate. In an alternative, exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, controller 925 can reduce the number of operating heaters (e.g., heaters 155a-N) to a lesser number of operating heaters (e.g., heaters 155a-155c and 155e-155g) when the flow rate of gas/steam mixture is reduced from a first, faster, rate, to a second, slower, rate. In a further, exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, controller 925 can adjust the number of heaters (e.g., heaters 155a-155N) operating to facilitate maintaining the gas/steam mixture at a desired temperature for a determined amount of time before the gas/steam mixture exhausts (via outlet 960) from chamber 912.

In another, exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, the volume of chamber 912 can be modified in accordance with the desired operating conditions. For example, at slower rates of flow of the gas/steam mixture into the chamber 912 (via inlet 950) a smaller chamber 912 volume may be required to maintain the same operating conditions as required for faster rates of flow of the gas/steam mixture. In one aspect, one or more refractory blocks 990a-N, where N is a positive integer, can be incorporated into the chamber 912, thereby reducing the volume of chamber 912. In another aspect, one or more refractory blocks 990a-N can be removed to increase the volume of chamber 912. Controller 925 can monitor the flow rate of the gas/steam mixture (e.g., with flow gauge 980) entering chamber 912 and, in conjunction with the change in volume of chamber 912 (e.g., increased volume, reduced volume) can adjust the number of heaters (e.g., heaters 155a-N) being employed to produce the required operating temperature in chamber 912 and also the at-temperature time.

It is to be appreciated that as the gas/steam mixture flows through chamber 912, the temperature of the gas/steam mixture may be increased from an initial temperature (e.g., incoming temperature of the gas/steam mixture) to a required temperature at which breakdown of tars, etc., occurs, and the required temperature is reached when the gas/steam mixture has passed through approximately, for example, two thirds of the way through the flow path between inlet 950 and outlet 960, and for the remaining one third of the flow path, the gas/steam mixture is maintained at an at-temperature value.

As described above, a plurality of combinations of chamber size, gas/steam mixture flow rate, temperature of the gas/steam mixture during the steam reformation process, holding temperature of the gas/steam mixture during the steam reformation process, etc., can be monitored/altered and controller 925 can be employed to control the heating of chamber 912 (e.g., with heaters 155a-155N) by adjusting the number of heaters employed to heat the gas/steam mixture flowing through chamber 912. Further, while the previous discussion has focused on controlling (e.g., with controller 925) the number of heaters (e.g., heaters 155a-155N) being utilized to control the temperature of the steam reformation process occurring in chamber 912 and/or the period at which a gas/steam mixture is held at-temperature as the gas/steam mixture flows through chamber 912, control of the temperature being produced by a respective heater (e.g., any of heaters 155a-155N) can also be controlled (e.g., controller 925). Heaters 155a-155N can be controlled (e.g., by controller 925) such that a respective heater heats for a given period of time (e.g., operation of the heater is intermittent) to facilitate maintenance of the temperature in the chamber 912 as required, based upon the flow rate of the gas/steam mixture. For example, in a non-limiting embodiment, controller 925 can control operation of a heater such that for high gas/steam mixture flow rates the heater is in operation for a comparatively longer period of time than would be required to heat a slower moving gas/steam mixture at the same temperature.

In a further, exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, system 900 can be constructed in a sectional manner. The pressure vessel 910 can be constructed in sections, for example an end section(s) S1 (with ends at X1-X2), an intermediate section(s) S2 (with ends between at X1-X2 and X3-X4), etc. Each section can include the necessary fittings, etc., to facilitate addition (as necessary) of piping (e.g., inlet 950 and outlet 960) heaters (e.g., heaters 155a-N), temperature sensors (e.g., thermocouples 920a-N), pressure sensors (e.g., pressure sensors 935a-N), baffles (e.g., baffles 930a-N), etc. Accordingly, as described above, the size of a chamber 912 required to achieve heating the gas/steam mixture to a desired temperature and maintaining the gas/steam mixture at that temperature is a function of the flow rate and volume of gas/steam mixture flowing through chamber 912. Hence, by designing system 900 to be constructed in a sectional manner, it is possible to provide flexibility regarding the size of pressure vessel 910 and, accordingly, chamber 912 in view of the flow rate, etc., and chamber 912 volume requirements based thereon. Ends (e.g., X1-X2 and X3-X4) can include the necessary structure and fittings to facilitate construction in a sectional manner, e.g., the respective end(s) can be flanged, with required gasketing, and coupling, to facilitate secure attachment of each section.

It is to be appreciated that the constructed pressure vessel (e.g., pressure vessel 910), whether in single piece or sectional form, can be of any suitable size (e.g., length, diameter) to facilitate operation of the various embodiments presented herein. For example, while in one application a pressure vessel having a diameter of 4 feet is utilized as a steam reforming chamber, another pressure vessel may be of 3 feet, 6 feet, about 4 feet, etc., and corresponding length as required based upon the gas/steam flowrate, flowpath to achieve temperature, flowpath to maintain holding temperature, etc. Further, it is to be appreciated that while particular temperatures and pressures have been presented in describing operation of system 900, the operating conditions are no so limited and any suitable operating conditions can be employed, as presented throughout the description in general (e.g., conditions pertaining to FIGS. 1, 4, 6, etc.).

FIG. 10 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for operating a steam reformation process as part of syngas production. At 1010, the volume of gas flowing through chamber 910 is determined. The gas is part of a syngas production operation wherein, as mentioned previously, the gas is formed as a result of the production of syngas from biomass and other carbonaceous materials (e.g., coal, pet coke, municipal solid waste, and the like). The gas comprises a plurality of gaseous elements and compounds, and is combined with super heated steam to produce carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4), possibly some carbon dioxide (CO2) and various trace elements. The proportions of CO, H2, CH4, etc., can depend upon the specific reactants (steam) and conditions (temperatures and pressures) employed within a gasifier, and the processing/treatment steps which the gases undergo subsequent to leaving the gasifier. Unfortunately, an incomplete reduction of carbon compounds can occur, which produces syngas containing tars. Hence, to facilitate breakdown of the tars to produce a greater volume of syngas and/or syngas of a higher quality, a steam reformation process can be located downstream of a syngas gasification process, thereby enabling subsequent breakdown of any tars (e.g., long chain compounds) in the syngas that were not broken down during gasification.

The volume of gas (comprising syngas, long chain compounds, partially unbroken gas, etc.) that will require steam reformation is a function of the volume and material properties of feedstock (e.g., biomass) being processed at the gasification stage, and the gasification conditions. For example, the volume of gas requiring steam reformation is a function of both the volume of material being processed to produce syngas as well as the material respective amount of syngas produced for a given volume of material, where one material (e.g., tree stumps) generates more syngas per volume than a second material (e.g., hemp), or vice versa.

Further, the volume of gas (comprising syngas, long chain compounds, partially unbroken gas, etc.) that will require steam reformation is a function of the conditions utilized during gasification. Under one set of operating conditions during the gasification process (e.g., a combination of a first temperature, first pressure, and/or first timing) the gas undergoing steam reformation may contain a different amount of tars than a gas which has undergone a gasification process utilizing a different combination of conditions, (e.g., a second temperature, a second pressure, and/or a second time) wherein at least one of the first temperature, second temperature, first pressure, second pressure, first time, second time, are respectively disparate.

At 1020, the volume of steam to be utilized in the steam reformation process is determined As discussed above, the steam reformation process involves combining gas (comprising syngas, long chain compounds, partially unbroken gas, etc.) from the gasification process with super heated steam to facilitate breakdown of tars and other compounds to increase yield of syngas and/or quality of syngas. To facilitate breakdown of the tars and other compounds a volume of super heated steam is added to the gas, wherein the volume of super heated steam added is a function of at least one of the quality of the syngas being produced at the gasification stage, the quantity of tars, long chain compounds, etc., in the syngas produced at the gasification stage, temperature of the super heated steam, and any other factors affecting syngas production relating to a volume of super heated steam being employed.

At 1030, temperature for which the steam reformation process is going to occur is determined. As mentioned above, one operating condition affecting quality of syngas produced by steam reformation versus the quality of syngas produced during the previous gasification process is the temperature of the steam reformation process. In one exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, the syngas production process is a continuous chain of processing stages, e.g., processing of feedstock, gasification, steam reformation, syngas extraction, etc., and operating conditions may be equalized throughout. For example, the operating pressure of an entire syngas production process may be a function of the pressure at the gasification process, e.g., the gasification process is maintained at 50 PSIG and accordingly, the operating pressure of the subsequent stages (e.g., the steam reformation process) can be a function of the operating pressure at the gasification stage. However, while an operating condition may remain constant throughout the various stages of the entire syngas production process, other conditions can be altered at a particular sub-process, e.g., during the steam reformation process. As mentioned above, raising the temperature utilized during the steam reformation process can result in an increase in the breakdown in the volume of tars and long chain compounds in a gas undergoing steam reformation processing. Hence, a desired temperature for processing a given volume of gas/steam mixture during the steam reformation process can be determined, where the desired temperature can be a function of at least one of volume of gas/steam undergoing steam reformation, quality of gas (e.g., amount of tars, amount of long chain compounds, amount of impurities, etc.), flow rate of gas/steam mixture, pressure of gas/steam mixture, and any other factors pertaining to the effects of temperature of the steam reformation process.

At 1040, as mentioned, the temperature at which a steam reformation process occurs can affect the quality of syngas produced, (e.g., degree of breakdown of tars comprising gas undergoing steam reformation) the time at which a gas/steam mixture is held at temperature can also affect syngas quality. For example, maintaining a gas/steam mixture at temperature Q for a time period T1 can result in breaking down a larger amount of tars compared with maintaining the gas/steam mixture at temperature Q for a time period T2.

At 1050, based upon the various previously described determinations, e.g., quality of feedstock, volume of gas to be processed, volume of steam to be utilized, quality of gas produced by previous gasification process(es), temperature of processing, time to maintain a given temperature, etc., the dimensions of a steam reformation chamber (e.g., pressure vessel 910) can be determined to facilitate breakdown of tars, long chain compounds, etc., in accordance with the gas quality, operating conditions, etc. In one aspect, the volume of a chamber (e.g., chamber 912) can be determined facilitating the desired operating conditions of the steam reformation process, e.g., determination of chamber volume based upon flow of gas/steam mixture through the chamber while facilitating raising the gas/steam mixture to a desired temperature and maintaining the gas/steam mixture at that temperature.

At 1060, in conjunction with determining a required chamber volume (as detailed in 1050) facilitating breakdown of tars, long chain compounds, etc., heating requirements facilitating breakdown of tars, etc., can also be determined. A plurality of heating sources (e.g., sealed radiant tube heater(s), system 300) can be incorporated into the design of the steam reformation chamber. The number of heaters and their placement in the steam reformation chamber can be determined to facilitate raising the temperature of the incoming gas/steam mixture from an initial temperature R to an operating temperature of S and maintaining the at-temperature condition (e.g., at temperature S) for a period of time, H, while the gas/steam mixture flows through the chamber (e.g., from inlet 950 to outlet 960).

At 1070, based upon the determined chamber volume and heating requirements, the required refactory can be determined to ensure that the operating conditions in the chamber (e.g., high temperatures) are contained within the chamber and are not encountered at the walls of the pressure vessel comprising the chamber. By employing a sufficient amount of refractory, e.g., a given thickness of refactory, the heat utilized during the steam reformation process can be contained within the chamber, thereby keeping the temperature encountered by the walls of the pressure vessel to such a temperature that inexotic materials such as steel, stainless steel, etc., can be utilized in the construction of the walls of the pressure vessel. By utilizing inexotic materials, a steam reformation chamber can be constructed at a lower cost than a pressure chamber constructed from exotic materials such as INCONEL, INCOLOY, and other materials having a high-temperature strength, creep resistance, rupture resistance, etc. For example, in a non-limiting embodiment, the temperature inside the steam reformation chamber maybe about 2000° F. while the temperature encountered at the wall of the pressure vessel may only be about 200° F.

At 1080, based upon the various determinations derived at 1010-1070, a pressure vessel can be constructed to facilitate operation of the steam reformation process having the desired operating conditions, e.g., operating temperature, time at-temperature, etc. A steam reformation chamber can be constructed with the required heaters (e.g., sealed radiant tube heater(s), system 300) located therein to facilitate increasing the temperature of the gas/steam mixture from an initial temperature R to an operating temperature S and maintaining the at-temperature condition (e.g., at temperature S) for a duration H, while the gas/steam mixture flows through the chamber (e.g., from inlet 950 to outlet 960). Based upon the determined chamber volume (e.g., chamber 912) and the amount of refractory material (refractory 915) required to maintain the required operating temperatures in the chamber, a pressure vessel (e.g., pressure vessel 910) can be constructed. The pressure vessel is lined with refractory material, and if required (e.g., to extend the operating lifetime of the refractory material) the refractory material can be lined with a cladding (e.g., cladding 970). Further, to facilitate flow of the gas/steam mixture through the chamber while ensuring that the gas/steam mixture is heated throughout, and no deadspots (e.g., thermal or flow) occur a plurality of baffles (e.g., baffles 930a-N) can be incorporated into the chamber.

Further, a plurality of temperature measuring components (e.g., thermocouples 920a-N) can be incorporated into the pressure vessel facilitating measurement of the temperature(s) in the chamber during operating of the steam reformation process. A controller (e.g., controller 925) can be associated with the pressure vessel to monitor the operating conditions in the chamber, e.g., by monitoring the temperatures (e.g., from thermocouples 920a-N) along with measuring the pressure (e.g., from pressure sensors 135, 935a-N).

FIG. 11 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for operating a steam reformation process as part of syngas production. At 1110, operation of a steam reformation process is initiated, with air in the chamber (e.g., chamber 912) being heated to a desired operating temperature or a intermediate temperature.

At 1120, a gas/steam mixture is passed into the chamber. As described above, the gas/steam mixture can comprise gas from a syngas gasification process wherein the gas comprises any of a combination of syngas, tars, long chain compounds, impurities, and other gaseous elements which, upon heating can be broken down to produce either a larger volume of syngas and/or syngas comprising reduced amounts of tars, long chain compounds, impurities, etc. As part of the steam reformation process, super heated steam is combined with the gas to facilitate breakdown of the tars, etc., to carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4), possibly some carbon dioxide (CO2) and various trace elements.

At 1130, the gas/steam mixture is directed through the steam reformation chamber. Baffles (e.g., baffles 930a-930N), or similar device, can be employed to ensure the gas/steam mixture flows correctly through the steam reformation chamber, thereby ensuring the gas/steam mixture is heated evenly throughout and deadspots (e.g., thermal or flow) are minimized/negated.

At 1140, as the steam reformation process proceeds, the temperature of the gas/steam mixture entering the chamber increases. As described previously, with regard to systems 100, 200, 400 and 600, operating a steam reformation process at higher temperatures facilitates improved reduction in the amount of tars compared with a steam reformation process operating at lower temperatures. By utilizing a refractory (e.g., refractory 915) to line the inner surface of a pressure vessel (e.g., pressure vessel 910) the operating temperature in the chamber can be maintained at a higher temperature while a lower temperature is encountered by the wall of the pressure vessel thereby enabling less exotic materials to be employed in the construction of the pressure vessel, e.g., stainless steel, steel, etc. When the gas/steam mixture enters (via inlet 950) the gas/steam mixture is at a first temperature (e.g., about 1600° F.) and as the gas/steam mixture flows through the chamber the temperature is increased to a higher value (e.g., about 2000° F.) to facilitate breakdown of the tars, long chain molecules, etc.

At 1150, as discussed above, during flow of the gas/steam mixture through the chamber the temperature of the gas/steam mixture can be raised from an initial value (e.g., about 1600° F.) to a higher value (e.g., about 2000° F.) to facilitate increased breakdown of tars, long chain molecules, etc., than would be possible at the lower temperature (e.g., about 1600° F.). Further, while an increase in temperature can result in improved breakdown of tars, long chain molecules, partially unbroken gas, etc., improved breakdown can also be achieved by maintaining the gas/steam mixture at a particular temperature for an extended period of time. Hence, as gas/steam mixture flows through the chamber, heating of the chamber can be configured such that, for example, the gas/steam mixture reaches the required temperature for the steam reformation process (e.g., 2200° F.) at a point of about halfway through the chamber flowpath, and for the remainder of the flowpath the gas/steam mixture is maintained at the required temperature (e.g., 2200° F.). Hence, the steam reformation chamber is designed (e.g., by volume, positioning of baffles, number of heaters, etc.) to raise a gas/steam mixture to a required temperature and then maintain the gas/steam mixture at the required temperature for a given period of time. The given period of time can be of any required value, e.g., 0.5 seconds, 1 second, 10 seconds, etc., as required to facilitate increased breakdown of tars, etc., comprising the gas/steam mixture compared with employing temperatures and pressures encountered in a conventional steam reformation process.

At 1160, the gas/steam mixture is exhausted from the steam reformation chamber. As discussed above, by increasing the temperature of the steam reformation process to temperatures higher than utilized in conventional steam reformation processes a greater volume of tars, long chain compounds, etc., can be decomposed to produce a syngas comprising increased volumes of carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4), possibly some carbon dioxide (CO2) and various trace elements compared with a syngas obtained from a conventional steam reformation process. Accordingly, greater volumes of syngas are produced for a given volume of feedstock and/or a cleaner syngas is produced (e.g., contains fewer tars) than is obtained from a conventional process.

FIG. 12 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for controlling temperature of a steam reformation process as part of syngas production. At 1210, the temperature of a gas/steam mixture being processed in a steam reformation chamber (e.g., chamber 912) is measured by any suitable temperature sensors (e.g., thermocouples 920a-920N), wherein the sensors can be located as necessary about the steam reformation apparatus (e.g., system 900), e.g., temperatures can be measured at inlet 950 (e.g., using thermocouple 920d), outlet 960 (e.g., using thermocouple 920c), and within the chamber (e.g., with thermocouples 920a, 920b, 920N). As discussed above, the temperature can be a function of the flowrate of the gas/steam mixture, the volume of the chamber, temperature of the gas/steam mixture entering the chamber, composition of the gas/steam mixture, etc.

At 1220, based upon the operating conditions in the chamber (e.g., chamber volume, gas/steam flowrate, temperature of the gas/steam mixture entering the chamber, etc.), a determination can be made as to whether the temperature in the chamber is to be increased or reduced. Such determination can be performed by a controller (e.g., controller 925) monitoring the various temperature sensors (e.g., thermocouples 920a-920N), flowmeter (e.g., flowmeter 980), and pressures (e.g., pressure sensors 935a-935N) and, based upon the various measurements, the controller can determine whether heaters (e.g., heaters 155a-155N) are to be employed in their totality (e.g., all of heaters 155a-155N) or a portion of the total available heaters, to facilitate heating of the gas/steam mixture to a desired temperature for a given set of operating conditions (e.g., composition of gas/steam mixture, flowrate of gas/steam mixture, volume of chamber, etc.).

At 1230, the operation of the heaters is controlled. For example, in one non-limiting embodiment, additional heaters are utilized (wherein the heaters where previously operating in a redundant manner) to facilitate increasing the available heating where an increased flowrate of gas/steam mixture is encountered (or other operating condition similarly requiring an increase in temperature). In another non-limiting embodiment, the number of heaters being utilized is reduced when the flowrate of gas/steam mixture (or other operating condition similarly requiring a reduction in temperature) is encountered. In a further, non-limiting embodiment, operation of a plurality of available heaters can be controlled to ensure the operating temperature of the chamber is maintained, wherein operation of the heaters can be intermittently controlled (e.g., turned off and on) to facilitate correct heating of the gas/steam mixture flowing through the chamber. The flow returns to 1210 whereupon the temperature of the gas/steam mixture is measured and the necessary determinations (e.g., at 1220) and heater adjustments (e.g., at 1230) are performed.

FIG. 13 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for controlling temperature of a steam reformation process as part of syngas production. At 1310, a time period for which a gas/steam mixture is to be maintained at a given temperature is determined. As described previously, the volume of tars, long chain molecules, etc., present in a gas/steam mixture for producing syngas can be reduced by exposing the gas/steam mixture to higher processing temperatures than are utilized in conventional syngas production techniques. For example, raising a gas/steam mixture to 2300° F. results in an increased amount of tars decomposed compared to raising a gas/steam mixture to 1600° F. Also, maintaining a gas/steam mixture at a higher temperature (compared to conventional processing temperatures) can also result in greater decomposition of tars present in a gas/steam mixture. Accordingly, a determination can be made with regard to the duration of a time period during which a gas/steam mixture is to be maintained at a particular temperature.

At 1320, based upon knowing the length of a chamber flowpath (e.g., distance, a gas/steam mixture has to travel through chamber 912 from inlet 950 to outlet 960), it is possible to identify a portion of the flowpath with the required time duration for maintaining the temperature of the gas/steam mixture. For example, if it takes a gas/steam mixture 20 seconds to flow along a flowpath (e.g., distance from inlet 950 to outlet 960) having a length of 60 feet, and an at-temperature duration of 10 seconds is required, then a determination can be made that for the last 30 feet of the flowpath, the gas/steam mixture is to be maintained at the required temperature throughout.

At 1320, temperature of the gas/steam mixture along the portion at which the temperature to be maintained can be measured (e.g., with thermocouples 920a-920N).

At 1340, a determination can be made (e.g., by controller 925) as to whether the temperature in the portion of the flowpath is being maintained for a given flow of gas/steam mixture, volume of chamber, composition of gas/steam mixture, etc. In the event that it is determined that no temperature adjustment is required (e.g., the gas/steam mixture is being maintained at the required temperature over the determined portion of the flowpath) the flow returns to 1330 for a subsequent temperature measurement to be made.

In the event of a temperature adjument being necessary, the flow proceeds to 1350 whereupon operation of the various heaters in the portion of the flowpath (and prior to the flowpath, if necessary) are controlled (e.g., by controller 925). In one, non-limiting embodiment, operation of the heaters can be increased to raise the temperature of the gas/steam mixture flowing along the portion of the flowpath. In another, non-limiting embodiment, operation of the heaters can be reduced to lower the temperature of the gas/steam mixture flowing along the flowpath portion. In another, non-limiting embodiment, in a system employing redundant heaters, redundant heaters can be brought into operation as required to facilitate heating of the gas/steam mixture, as described previously. Flow proceeds to 1330 whereupon another temperature measurement(s) can be performed.

FIG. 14 presents a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment for controlling temperature of a steam reformation process as part of syngas production. At 1410 a determination is made regarding the flowrate of a gas/steam mixture through a steam reformation chamber. In effect, the flowrate is a function of the processing conditions encountered at processes (e.g., gasification) performed prior to the steam reformation process, as previously described.

At 1420, a determination is made regarding whether the steam reformation chamber is of a particular size to support the determined flowrate. For example, for a given chamber volume, “is the chamber of a correct size for the determined flowrate, or does the chamber volume have to be increased or decreased?” In a situation where the size of a pressure vessel (e.g., pressure vessel 910) comprising the chamber cannot be physically changed, it is possible to adjust the volume of the chamber (e.g., chamber 912) by utilizing removable refractory blocks (e.g., refractory blocks 990a-N), refractory blanket, and the like, in conjunction with the chamber. In another situation, the pressure vessel may be constructed to be combined in a sectional manner, thereby allowing a pressure vessel to be constructed (e.g., enlarged) or deconstructed (e.g., reduced) based upon a required chamber volume. In the event that the volume of the chamber is correct for the determined flow rate, flow returns to 1410 whereupon another determination of flow rate versus chamber volume can be performed.

At 1430, in the event of the chamber volume not being correct for the determined flowrate, the chamber volume can be adjusted. In an exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, additional refractory material (e.g., refractory material 990a-990N) can be added to reduce the volume of the chamber, thereby reducing the duration of which a gas/steam mixtures passes through the chamber, and accordingly, potentially reducing the time for which the gas/steam mixture is maintained at a given temperature, as described above. In another, exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, refractory material (e.g., refractory material 990a-990N) can be removed from the chamber, thereby increasing the duration of which a gas/steam mixtures passes through the chamber, and accordingly, potentially increasing the time for which the gas/steam mixture is maintained at a given temperature, as described above. In a further, exemplary, non-limiting embodiment, as mentioned the pressure vessel may be constructed in sections. Hence, to achieve a required chamber volume, the necessary number of section(s) (e.g., sections S1, S2, etc.) can be added or removed to the pressure vessel enabling the required chamber volume to be achieved.

Exemplary Computing Device

As mentioned, advantageously, the techniques described herein can be applied to any system supporting the control operations described herein as required to facilitate operation of a steam reformation process at higher temperatures and higher pressures than are conventionally utilized. Further, control operations can be employed to facilitate operation of a reformation process under “partial pressure” conditions, as well as “parasitic” conditions, as described above. It can be understood, therefore, that handheld, portable and other computing devices and computing objects of all kinds are contemplated for use in connection with the various embodiments, i.e., monitoring and controlling temperatures and pressures. Accordingly, the below general purpose remote computer described below in FIG. 10 is but one example of a computing device, where the computing device can comprise any of the control systems as presented above.

Embodiments can partly be implemented via an operating system, for use by a developer of services for a device or object, and/or included within application software that operates to perform one or more functional aspects of the various embodiments described herein. Software may be described in the general context of computer-executable instructions, such as program modules, being executed by one or more computers, such as client workstations, servers or other devices. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that computer systems have a variety of configurations and protocols that can be used to communicate data, and thus, no particular configuration or protocol is considered limiting.

FIG. 15 thus illustrates an example of a suitable computing system environment 1500 in which one or aspects of the embodiments described herein (e.g., control system 410, controller 695, controller 925, etc.) can be implemented, although as made clear above, the computing system environment 1500 is only one example of a suitable computing environment and is not intended to suggest any limitation as to scope of use or functionality. In addition, the computing system environment 1500 is not intended to be interpreted as having any dependency relating to any one or combination of components illustrated in the exemplary computing system environment 1500.

With reference to FIG. 15, an example environment 1500 for implementing various aspects of the aforementioned subject matter, including controlling operation of a steam reformation process, includes a computer 1512. The computer 1512 includes a processing unit 1514, a system memory 1516, and a system bus 1518. The system bus 1518 couples system components including, but not limited to, the system memory 1516 to the processing unit 1514. The processing unit 1514 can be any of various available processors. Dual microprocessors and other multiprocessor architectures also can be employed as the processing unit 1514.

The system bus 1518 can be any of several types of bus structure(s) including the memory bus or memory controller, a peripheral bus or external bus, and/or a local bus using any variety of available bus architectures including, but not limited to, 8-bit bus, Industrial Standard Architecture (USA), Micro-Channel Architecture (MSA), Extended ISA (EISA), Intelligent Drive Electronics (IDE), VESA Local Bus (VLB), Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI), Universal Serial Bus (USB), Advanced Graphics Port (AGP), Personal Computer Memory Card International Association bus (PCMCIA), and Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI).

The system memory 1516 includes volatile memory 1520 and nonvolatile memory 1522. The basic input/output system (BIOS), containing the basic routines to transfer information between elements within the computer 1512, such as during start-up, is stored in nonvolatile memory 1522. By way of illustration, and not limitation, nonvolatile memory 1522 can include read only memory (ROM), programmable ROM (PROM), electrically programmable ROM (EPROM), electrically erasable PROM (EEPROM), or flash memory. Volatile memory 1520 includes random access memory (RAM), which acts as external cache memory. By way of illustration and not limitation, RAM is available in many forms such as synchronous RAM (SRAM), dynamic RAM (DRAM), synchronous DRAM (SDRAM), double data rate SDRAM (DDR SDRAM), enhanced SDRAM (ESDRAM), Synchlink DRAM (SLDRAM), and direct Rambus RAM (DRRAM).

Computer 1512 also includes removable/non-removable, volatile/non-volatile computer storage media. FIG. 15 illustrates, for example a disk storage 1524. Disk storage 1524 includes, but is not limited to, devices like a magnetic disk drive, floppy disk drive, tape drive, Jaz drive, Zip drive, LS-100 drive, flash memory card, or memory stick. In addition, disk storage 1524 can include storage media separately or in combination with other storage media including, but not limited to, an optical disk drive such as a compact disk ROM device (CD-ROM), CD recordable drive (CD-R Drive), CD rewritable drive (CD-RW Drive) or a digital versatile disk ROM drive (DVD-ROM). To facilitate connection of the disk storage devices 1524 to the system bus 1518, a removable or non-removable interface is typically used such as interface 1526.

It is to be appreciated that FIG. 15 describes software that acts as an intermediary between users and the basic computer resources described in suitable operating environment 1500. Such software includes an operating system 1528. Operating system 1528, which can be stored on disk storage 1524, acts to control and allocate resources of the computer system 1512. System applications 1530 take advantage of the management of resources by operating system 1528 through program modules 1532 and program data 1534 stored either in system memory 1516 or on disk storage 1524. It is to be appreciated that the subject invention can be implemented with various operating systems or combinations of operating systems.

A user enters commands or information into the computer 1512 through input device(s) 1536. Input devices 1536 include, but are not limited to, a pointing device such as a mouse, trackball, stylus, touch pad, keyboard, microphone, joystick, game pad, satellite dish, scanner, TV tuner card, digital camera, digital video camera, web camera, and the like. These and other input devices connect to the processing unit 1514 through the system bus 1518 via interface port(s) 1538. Interface port(s) 1538 include, for example, a serial port, a parallel port, a game port, and a universal serial bus (USB). Output device(s) 1540 use some of the same type of ports as input device(s) 1536. Thus, for example, a USB port may be used to provide input to computer 1512, and to output information from computer 1512 to an output device 1540. Output adapter 1542 is provided to illustrate that there are some output devices 1540 like monitors, speakers, and printers, among other output devices 1540, which require special adapters. The output adapters 1542 include, by way of illustration and not limitation, video and sound cards that provide a means of connection between the output device 1540 and the system bus 1518. It should be noted that other devices and/or systems of devices provide both input and output capabilities such as remote computer(s) 1544.

Computer 1512 can operate in a networked environment using logical connections to one or more remote computers, such as remote computer(s) 1544. The remote computer(s) 1544 can be a personal computer, a server, a router, a network PC, a workstation, a microprocessor based appliance, a peer device or other common network node and the like, and typically includes many or all of the elements described relative to computer 1512. For purposes of brevity, only a memory storage device 1546 is illustrated with remote computer(s) 1544. Remote computer(s) 1544 is logically connected to computer 1512 through a network interface 1548 and then physically connected via communication connection 1550. Network interface 1548 encompasses communication networks such as local-area networks (LAN) and wide-area networks (WAN). LAN technologies include Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI), Copper Distributed Data Interface (CDDI), Ethernet/IEEE 802.3, Token Ring/IEEE 802.5 and the like. WAN technologies include, but are not limited to, point-to-point links, circuit switching networks like Integrated Services Digital Networks (ISDN) and variations thereon, packet switching networks, and Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL).

Communication connection(s) 1550 refers to the hardware/software employed to connect the network interface 1548 to the bus 1518. While communication connection 1550 is shown for illustrative clarity inside computer 1512, it can also be external to computer 1512. The hardware/software necessary for connection to the network interface 1548 includes, for exemplary purposes only, internal and external technologies such as, modems including regular telephone grade modems, cable modems and DSL modems, ISDN adapters, and Ethernet cards.

The word “exemplary” is used herein to mean serving as an example, instance, or illustration. For the avoidance of doubt, the subject matter disclosed herein is not limited by such examples. In addition, any aspect or design described herein as “exemplary” is not necessarily to be construed as preferred or advantageous over other aspects or designs, nor is it meant to preclude equivalent exemplary structures and techniques known to those of ordinary skill in the art. Furthermore, to the extent that the terms “includes,” “has,” “contains,” and other similar words are used, for the avoidance of doubt, such terms are intended to be inclusive in a manner similar to the term “comprising” as an open transition word without precluding any additional or other elements when employed in a claim.

As mentioned, the various techniques described herein may be implemented in connection with hardware or software or, where appropriate, with a combination of both. As used herein, the terms “component”, “module”, “system”, and the like, are likewise intended to refer to a computer-related entity, either hardware, a combination of hardware and software, software, or software in execution. For example, a component may be, but is not limited to being, a process running on a processor, a processor, an object, an executable, a thread of execution, a program, and/or a computer. By way of illustration, both an application running on computer and the computer can be a component. One or more components may reside within a process and/or thread of execution and a component may be localized on one computer and/or distributed between two or more computers.

The aforementioned systems have been described with respect to interaction between several components. It can be appreciated that such systems and components can include those components or specified sub-components, some of the specified components or sub-components, and/or additional components, and according to various permutations and combinations of the foregoing. Sub-components can also be implemented as components communicatively coupled to other components rather than included within parent components (hierarchical). Additionally, it can be noted that one or more components may be combined into a single component providing aggregate functionality or divided into several separate sub-components, and that any one or more middle layers, such as a management layer, may be provided to communicatively couple to such sub-components in order to provide integrated functionality. Any components described herein may also interact with one or more other components not specifically described herein but generally known by those of skill in the art.

In view of the exemplary systems described supra, methodologies that may be implemented in accordance with the described subject matter can also be appreciated with reference to the flowcharts of the various figures. While for purposes of simplicity of explanation, the methodologies are shown and described as a series of blocks, it is to be understood and appreciated that the various embodiments are not limited by the order of the blocks, as some blocks may occur in different orders and/or concurrently with other blocks from what is depicted and described herein. Where non-sequential, or branched, flow is illustrated via flowchart, it can be appreciated that various other branches, flow paths, and orders of the blocks, may be implemented which achieve the same or a similar result. Moreover, some illustrated blocks are optional in implementing the methodologies described hereinafter.

In addition to the various embodiments described herein, it is to be understood that other similar embodiments can be used or modifications and additions can be made to the described embodiment(s) for performing the same or equivalent function of the corresponding embodiment(s) without deviating therefrom. Still further, multiple processing chips or multiple devices can share the performance of one or more functions described herein, and similarly, storage can be effected across a plurality of devices. Accordingly, the invention is not to be limited to any single embodiment, but rather is to be construed in breadth, spirit and scope in accordance with the appended claims.