“ClearSign Paving The Way To Clean Air”
By Brandy Fidler
December 13, 2016
As the oil and gas industry continues to tackle ongoing emission standards and regulations, Seattle-based ClearSign Combustion Corp. has been there along the way to help the industry tackle them.
The company designs and develops technologies for the purpose of improving key performance characteristics of combustion systems, which include emission performance, NOX production, operating performance energy, such as efficiency and overall cost. ClearSign’s core technology platform consists of the “Duplex” technology, which is already achieved commercial validation, and the “ECC” (Electrodynamic Combustion Control) technology, which is still in the research and development stage.
Leading the company is chairman and CEO, Steve Pirnat, who joined ClearSign after serving three years as an independent board member and having been with John Zink Co. LLC, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, for more than 10 years.
ClearSign’s most recent deal, announced Nov. 17, was with Tricor Refining LLC to retrofit a Duplex system into a Cleaver-Brooks water tube boiler. The order follows ClearSign’s successful completion of a Duplex system retrofit into a vertical process heater at Tricor, in Bakersfield, Calif. In a recent interview with DownstreamBusiness.com, Prinat discussed the Duplex technology and how it’s helping the industry achieve its goals.
DOWNSTREAM BUSINESS: Can you explain ClearSign’s “Duplex” technology and how it’s used in the refining industry?
PIRNAT: The Duplex technology operates using a porous membrane—a membrane that has a series of small channels in it. Each one of these channels controls the combustion process in a way that reduces emissions and controls flames temperature. The concept is quite simple and elegant, and it produces very low NOX and very low CO.
The concept is so simple that people who see it can really get why it produces not only the low emissions that we’re reporting, but they also can understand how the unit can produce better heat transfer using a mechanism of radiate heat transfer vs. convective.
It’s used anywhere combustion takes place. It’s used in the refining industry for traditional applications, like crude heaters, cokers and typical process heaters, anywhere you would put or see an ultralow NOX burner. It’s been used in the downstream business as a complement to flare technology to produce low-emission flares. It’s also used extensively in the boiler industry for producing low-emission boilers. Boilers can be found anywhere inside a refinery, a power plant, a large shopping mall, a school or hotel.
DOWNSTREAM BUSINESS: In what ways can refiners benefit from using the Duplex technology?
PIRNAT: Duplex technology is the only low-emission technology that we’re aware that can improve operational throughput and potentially save energy in certain applications. One of the ways that traditional low NOX burners reduce emissions is by recirculating flue gas, and that of course cools the flame in the combustion process, but it also has the energy penalty associated with creating and using flue gas. So, the duplex technology can in many cases save the user energy, specifically in the case of enhanced oil recovery. We have applications where the Duplex technology has produced, according to our customers, a significant energy savings in comparison to other technologies they’ve tried.
DOWNSTREAM BUSINESS: How are environmental regulations impacting downstream oil/gas operators to seek out low-emission technology vendors such as ClearSign for compliance?
PIRNAT: I think we’re all aware of the trends toward increasing regulations and the general interest in society of having clean air has been fairly pervasive and as a result of the trend for cleaner air and improved emissions, we’ve been fortunate in that operators themselves have sought us out as a potential solution to not only helping them meet their environmental regulations, but I think, more importantly, doing it in a more cost-effective way.
DOWNSTREAM BUSINESS: What are some of your goals for ClearSign’s future?
PIRNAT: ClearSign is going to continue to apply our technology and our research capabilities to solve the world’s environmental and air quality challenges in a way that’s economically attractive, and hopefully sufficiently cost-effective to become a ubiquitous technology around the world. We really have a fundamental and simple technology that can dramatically reduce emissions and it can be installed at the fraction of the cost of alternatives like selective catalytic reduction. So there’s a certain good feeling about being able to provide our clients with technology that not only improves air quality, but can do it in a way that makes it economically reasonable.
If you meet refinery operators, exploration and production people, they all have kids and grandkids and they all want clean air. So, the issue isn’t who wants clean air; the issue is how do you have clean air and do it in an affordable, cost-effective way? I think that’s where ClearSign really provides a unique value to our clients.
Brandy Fidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see the original Downstream Business story, click here.