Modular Plant Solutions (MPS), a global engineering firm specializing in process modularization and project implementation, in Friendswood, Texas, outside of Houston, has introduced a unique approach to small-scale plant designs for the for the oil, petrochemical and process industries. Using this design approach, the company has developed a small-scale modular methanol plant, MeOH-To-Go™ (Methanol-To-Go™), which enables users to produce their own methanol output from associated, stranded, flared or pipeline gas.
Russell Hillenburg, president and co-founder of MPS, and David Townsend, co-founder and vice president of engineering for MPS, developed the idea for a modularized structural system for process plants after brainstorming solutions to more efficiently and economically use stranded and flared gases, which are often found in remote, hard-to-reach areas. Hillenburg, a Houston-area entrepreneur who is also CEO of Woven Metal Products, a premier fabrication facility that manufactures reactor and tower process internals, brought their idea to market by launching MPS in 2016. Drawing on Townsend’s experience in the industry, the co-founders first focused on producing methanol, a commodity that tracks the price of oil.
“We created a design that takes the guesswork out of planning and cost estimates and created something that is easily-transportable, constructable and operable,” said Hillenburg. “The way we approach modularization is about efficiency and standardization of components, opening up options for locations that were previously unattainable.”
MPS’s standard MeOH-To-Go™ plant has a three-stage process to convert natural gas to Grade AA methanol, which is a basic building block for the production of various chemical derivatives. Methanol has widespread applications for several industries — from plastics, automotive and paints to adhesives, construction and pharmaceuticals, as well as most recently being adopted as a clean-burning marine transportation fuel. The plant’s small-scale modularization not only helps customers save on upfront costs, but also ensures the plants are easy to transport, assemble and disassemble to move if needed — even in remote locations. In fact, MPS’s patent-pending design is based on the ISO 1496 container standard, so the modules can be shipped all over the world via container ship, rail and truck, and re-assembled in the field.
“Our design reduces on-site construction risks and makes capital cost more predictable. The economics are now comparable with world-scale plants,” said Townsend. “And since we build the modules to the ISO-container standard, we can use multi-modal shipping for a fraction of the transportation cost of standard modular construction.”
This year, West Virginia Methanol permitted three MeOH-To-Go™ plants, which will be designed to produce 900 metric tons per day of Grade AA methanol from natural gas. The project is expected to come online in 2024.
Currently, MPS has two other plants in the design phase: DME-To-Go™, an add-on option for MeOH-To-Go™ plants to produce Dimethyl Ether (DME), a clean burning alternative diesel fuel, as well as Gasoline-To-Go™, a small-scale modular plant to produce 88 Octane gasoline.