In an effort to remove carbon dioxide from natural gas, which could enable the commercialization of gas with a higher carbon dioxide content, ExxonMobil announced Monday that it is committing more than $100 million to complete development and testing of an improved natural gas treating technology that could make carbon capture and storage more affordable and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the plan, ExxonMobil said it will build a commercial demonstration plant near LaBarge, WY, where it will use ExxonMobil’s Controlled Freeze Zone technology, known as CFZ, which is a single-step cryogenic separation process that freezes out and then melts the carbon dioxide and removes other components, including the hydrogen sulfide found in so-called sour gas. If successful, the process will reduce the cost of carbon dioxide removal from produced natural gas.

“This technology will assist in the development of additional gas resources to meet the world’s growing demand for energy and facilitate the application of carbon capture and storage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mark Albers, senior vice president of ExxonMobil.

Using the CFZ process, the carbon dioxide and other components are discharged as a high-pressure liquid stream for injection into underground storage or for use in reservoir management to enhance oil recovery. Besides reducing the cost of separation, transportation and reinjection, the CFZ process can eliminate the use of solvents, sulfur plants and carbon dioxide venting in the processing of natural gas, ExxonMobil said.

The new demonstration plant will advance the CFZ technology to commercial application, and be located at ExxonMobil’s Shute Creek Treating Facility. It will process about 14 MMcf/d of gas for injection and test a wide range of gas compositions to evaluate the extent of its applicability to the world’s undeveloped gas resources.

The company said construction will commence this summer for operational start-up in late 2009. Testing is expected to occur over one to two years. The detailed engineering, procurement, and construction management will be provided by URS Washington Division.

CFZ was developed by ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co. and has undergone significant improvements since the 1980s, when, in an industry first, it proved the concept of freezing carbon dioxide in natural gas separation with a CFZ pilot plant.

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