Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne partner with ExxonMobil

By Bryan Sims
Web exclusive posted Oct. 10, 2008 at 9:25 a.m. CST

Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a United Technologies Corp. company, has partnered with ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co. to develop affordable, efficient and innovative compact gasification technology in an effort to lower costs, provide clean burning fuels and to wean dependency on imported foreign oil.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne manufactures aircraft engines, industrial gas turbines and space propulsion systems.

Under the new joint development agreement, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne intend to develop a gasification process that converts carbon-containing material such as coal or biomass into a syngas which could then be processed into a variety of end products such as electricity or a natural gas substitute. Both companies plan to conduct research and development in pilot-scale environments at the Gas Technology Institute in Des Plaines, Ill., as well as feed system and dry solids pump tests at the Energy and Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks, N.D.

"The technology developed through this teaming arrangement is expected to significantly reduce capital and operating costs of gasification plants and enhance commercial development of more compact gasification systems," said Jim Hartung, energy systems director for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

The Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne gasifier is about one-tenth the size of conventional gasification systems and it offers the potential to be more efficient, reliable and affordable, which is expected to also reduce the cost of carbon dioxide sequestration. ExxonMobil Research and Engineering will share development cost in collaboration with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne to license the technology to third parties.

"This unique collaboration will help expand our business to make clean gasification technology more available, affordable, reliable and efficient," said Jim Maser, president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. "While ExxonMobil Research and Engineering brings its extensive expertise in energy process development and engineering, we bring decades of experience in high-temperature reactions and hardware development."

Under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. DOE, Pratt & Whitney began developing the technology which is based on more than 50 years of rocket engine experience and early proof of concept tests performed in the late 1970s.