There is a critical need within the pipeline gas industry for an inexpensive and reliable technology to generate an identification tag or tracer that can be added to pipeline gas to identify gas that may escape and improve the deliverability and management of gas in underground storage fields. Ethylene is an ideal tracer, because it does not exist naturally in the pipeline gas, and because its physical properties are similar to the pipeline gas components. A pyrolysis process, known as the Tragen process, has been developed to continuously convert the ???2%-4% ethane component present in pipeline gas into ethylene at common pipeline pressures of 800 psi. In our studies of the Tragen process, pyrolysis without steam addition achieved a maximum ethylene yield of 28%-35% at a temperature range of 700-775 ??C, corresponding to an ethylene concentration of 4600-5800 ppm in the product gas. Coke deposition was determined to occur at a significant rate in the pyrolysis reactor without steam addition. The ?? 13C isotopic analysis of gas components showed a ?? 13C value of ethylene similar to ethane in the pipeline gas, indicating that most of the ethylene was generated from decomposition of the ethane in the raw gas. However, ?? 13C isotopic analysis of the deposited coke showed that coke was primarily produced from methane, rather than from ethane or other heavier hydrocarbons. No coke deposition was observed with the addition of steam at concentrations of > 20% by volume. The dilution with steam also improved the ethylene yield. ?? 2005 American Chemical Society.
Additional publication details
Generation of ethylene tracer by noncatalytic pyrolysis of natural gas at elevated pressure