FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Below is a list of frequently asked questions related to Imtex Membranes and PermyleneTM. Feel free to contact us if you require further details or if your question is not listed here.

1. What is Permylene™?

Permylene is a patented membrane technology that has significant cost, environmental and other benefits in the production of chemical products derived from petroleum and natural gas. Permylene is currently the only commercially viable, high-performance alternative to traditional distillation techniques for olefin-paraffin separation and olefin purification. The technology is also able to perform commercially valuable separations that have, to date, been considered difficult or impractical.

2. What kind of mixed olefin/paraffin streams are suitable for a Permylene membrane system?

Permylene membrane technology is suitable for the purification of C2, C3 and C4 olefins (ethylene, propylene and butenes) by separating them from their corresponding paraffins (ethane, propane, and butanes respectively) in mixed gas streams.

3. What kind of applications has Imtex evaluated for Permylene membrane system deployment?

Permylene membrane systems can be utilized in olefins production from cracking, olefins recovery and purification from purge or reactor vent streams, on-purpose olefins production, olefins extraction in oil refining and upgrading, and olefin based specialty chemicals production. Permylene membrane systems can be applied in place of distillation, or in a hybrid mode in conjunction with traditional distillation in these applications.

5. How does the Permylene membrane system work?

Permylene uses a natural source polymer facilitated transport membrane designed for industrial conditions. Steady and stable olefin transport is achieved in continuous, non-stop operation via circulation of an aqueous silver nitrate solution over a spiral wound membrane containing a hydrogel coating. The silver ions in the silver nitrate solution within the hydrogel structure form a reversible complex with the double bonds of the olefin molecules. Any molecules not possessing a double bond are rejected, resulting in excellent selectivity. The process is primarily driven by the olefin partial pressure differential across the Permylene membrane resulting in commercially attractive permeation rates.

6. What are the operating limits of the Permylene membrane system?

Constructed of proprietary polymeric materials, the operating temperature range for the Permylene membrane system is between 10℃ and 70℃, making a wide range of practical operating pressures available for various olefin / paraffin separations.

7. What kind of olefin recovery and purity performance can I expect with a Permylene membrane system?

Unlike similar technologies that are in the development stage, Permylene membrane systems can be effectively used over the widest range of olefin/paraffin ratios. Olefin purity in the permeate stream from a Permylene membrane system is typically > 99.5% regardless of the olefin content in the feed stream. Olefin recovery depends in large part on the olefin concentration in the mixed gas feed stream as well as the available partial pressure differential between the mixed gas feed stream and the allowable permeate (product) pressure. The higher the olefin content in the feed stream, the higher the recovery of the olefin possible. The greater the partial pressure differential available between the feed stream and the permeate stream, the higher the recovery of the olefin.

8. Why does the Permylene membrane require a membrane hydration system?

In the Permylene membrane system, the permeate stream absorbs moisture from the silver nitrate hydration maintenance solution and the hydrogel layer as it expands through the membrane , moving from the higher pressure to the lower pressure side. This moisture loss cannot be sufficiently compensated for by humidification of the feed gas prior to entry into the membrane system. As the aqueous silver nitrate solution is continuously circulated across the surface of the membrane concurrently with the hydrocarbon gas flow, the silver nitrate content maintains the charge of silver ions within the membrane while continuously replenishing the moisture lost to the permeating gas stream. The hydration maintenance solution is automatically controlled within a target molarity range using reverse osmosis or deionized water as make up. Because only the water leaves the membrane system in the permeate and retentate streams, the silver ions remain in the membrane and hydration system and are not consumed in the process.

9. Will I have to continuously have to add silver nitrate to the continuous membrane hydration system?

No. The membrane hydration system is a closed circulation system with the only losses being the water that leaves the membrane system in the permeate and retentate streams. There is no silver nitrate solution carryover in the permeate or the retentate streams.

10. Are there different versions of Permylene for each type of olefin to be processed?

No, the innovative Permylene membrane system design can be employed for any C2, C3 and C4 mixed olefin/paraffin gas stream.

11. What payback time can I expect on a Permylene membrane system?

The payback time for a Permylene membrane system is a function of a number of variables including feed stream composition, the desired olefin recovery level, and the available partial pressure differential between the feed gas pressure and the available permeate pressure to name a few. Our experience to date based on numerous candidate stream evaluations would suggest payback times from several months to less than three years.

12. What is the expected life of a Permylene membrane element?

The spiral wound elements employed in a Permylene membrane system are of a design that is commonly used in applications such as water purification. As such, Imtex estimates the life of the membrane elements to be at least five to seven years, which coincides with the typical timing of petrochemical operation maintenance turnarounds.

13. What does Imtex supply to a company to support a Permylene membrane system project?

Imtex is involved with Permylene membrane system projects from start to finish. Starting with the initial opportunity evaluation, to basic engineering design, process hazard analysis reviews, P&ID reviews, to project installation, commissioning and start-up, Imtex will be involved and will support every aspect of a project.

14. How many Permylene installations are operating in the field?

While no Permylene installations are currently in commercial operation, Imtex is currently working on a number of projects that are in the initial design and plant site demonstration phase. Once demonstrations are completed, and the technology is validated to the customers’ satisfaction, Imtex expects commercial installations to take place.

15. How can I get my olefin/paraffin separation opportunity evaluated?

All you have to do is ask us! The best way to initiate the process is to contact us with basic information on the opportunity to be evaluated. You will be then contacted by a member of the Imtex business development team to proceed with the evaluation. Imtex performs such initial evaluations on a complimentary basis.

16. Can Permylene membrane systems be used to separate mixed C4 (butenes/butanes) streams?

Yes. C4 hydrocarbon separations (butenes from butanes) are particularly challenging for distillation due to the boiling point similarity between the C4 species. This makes C4 separations such as 1-butene/iso-butane and 2-butene/n-butane difficult. Permylene’s facilitated transport separation mechanism functions independent of relative volatility, allowing these separations to be easily achieved. Permylene membrane separation technology can replace and/or integrate with traditional C4 distillation and result in a more cost effective and operationally efficient system. Contact us to discuss your specific application and objectives.

17. Is Permylene being evaluated for use in ethylene production processes?

Yes, Imtex has been asked to evaluate a number of different ways to integrate Permylene membrane systems into traditional ethylene production processes. Examples include debottlenecking C2 splitter operations, hybrid systems to enhance the purity of C2 splitter overhead streams, and systems to improve splitter efficiency, to name a few. Contact us to learn more.

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