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In April 2013, the first commercial-scale, steam methane reformer hydrogen production facility incorporating vacuum-swing adsorption carbon capture gas separation technology began full-scale operation at Air Products’ facilities located on the site of the Valero Port Arthur Refinery in Texas, USA. This report summarizes the experience of Air Products and its partners that will provide valuable insights to other petroleum refining and petrochemical industrial facilities that wish to reduce their lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions through CCUS.


This project was a remarkable achievement. To date, carbon capture industrial facilities that have been constructed elsewhere have primarily utilized amine absorption carbon capture technology. This facility stands alone as a leading example of a pioneering alternative technology that was developed at record speed to enable carbon capture from steam methane reformers.



Air Products and Chemicals Inc. (Air Products) responded to a request for Phase 1 proposals under the Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage (ICCS) Program of the US Department of Energy (DOE) in mid-2009. Initially, it conducted basic engineering for a BASF aMEA amine-based absorption technology, that had been commercially proven, to capture CO2 from both of its steam methane reformer (SMR) hydrogen production facilities located at the Valero Port Arthur Refinery in Texas. The two facilities (Port Arthur 1 and Port Arthur 2) were originally put into service in 2000 and 2006, respectively, and were designed to produce hydrogen, steam and power with high energy efficiency to provide “over the fence” utilities to the Valero Refinery, as well as hydrogen to supply other customers along Air Products’ Gulf Coast Connection Pipeline.


However, towards the end of Phase 1, Air Products determined that the ideal solution would be to rapidly develop and upscale vacuum swing adsorption (VSA) technology for capturing CO2 from the SMRs’ water-gas shift reactor to avoid significant energy penalties and improve economics. At that time, VSA gas separation technology had not been used on a large scale for CO2 separation and purification. This proposal was approved by DOE and Air Products’ Port Arthur SMR Project proceeded to Phase 2 in June 2010.
By December 2012, Air Products had:


  • developed, designed and constructed a commercial-scale VSA capture system for each SMR;


  • entered into commercial arrangement with Denbury Onshore, LLC for sale of CO2 to use for CO2-EOR at the West Hastings oil field;


  • commissioned the retrofitted Port Arthur 2 SMR facility’s new equipment;


  • built a connector pipeline to the regional Denbury CO2 Green Pipeline; and


  • put into service the retrofitted Port Arthur 2 SMR.
This report is free to download.