From The Researcher
By far, the majority of past research concerning separation nozzles has focused on single-phase gaseous processes, relying upon massive centrifugal forces to separate isotopes, with very minute weight differences. However, the ability of these nozzles to create and make use of phase change and the resulting massive weight differences between the gases or isotopes in the mix has been overlooked.
ACES nozzles have the potential to be used in a compact gas separation system that can extract contaminants like carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide from natural gas, or be used for simultaneous expansion and phase separation in a variety of thermodynamic cycles. There are many other potential applications in other industrial gas processes and particle separation.
A theoretical and experimental investigation of the operating conditions of a two-phase flow centrifugal separation nozzle system developing its contaminant and phase separation capabilities has resulted in a working prototype and a United States patent. Empirical data indicates that the ACES nozzle performance may meet saleable natural gas specifications for natural gas that has contaminant levels exceeding 20% and for natural gas liquids recovery. In thermodynamic applications, ACES nozzles allow for the instantaneous separation of phases during the expansion process, thereby allowing the two phases to each be immediately directed away from one another to more appropriate points in the cycle. Improvements in cycle efficiency and the potential to eliminate system components are now possible.
An ACES nozzle is a device with no moving parts that will convert an incoming compressed gas flow, such as natural gas, of a given temperature into a supersonic flow for causing preferential condensation of components of the flow, and during this process imparts large centrifugal effect on the supersonic flow causing condensing fractions to concentrate together. The supersonic flow is split into two streams of different phase, one having primarily a gaseous content and the other having concentrated condensate. The ACES nozzle system devised in this technology development process has included in-depth research into temperature-control of process gases, expansion enhancement, and the design and operation of the ACES nozzle geometry. This new ACES nozzle could be likened to the process of distillation without both the massive plant footprint and capital investment, and the technical challenges that result from reliance on refrigeration.