Malaysia’s national oil company Petronas has launched an innovation challenge for a compact refrigeration system for natural gas processing — technology that would enable it to exploit high CO2 gas fields.

Malaysia is home to numerous high CO2 gas fields — such as K5 off Sarawak that was discovered 50 years — which could ultimately be economically exploited with the optimum technology.

“The development of carbon dioxide separation technology will enable the monetisation of undeveloped gas fields with a high level of CO2 thus providing more opportunities in developing the low-quality gas fields,” said Petronas.

The operator wants a compact technology solution instead of the conventional refrigerant and refrigeration systems that require a large footprint, are complex and heavy, and which are “challenging for offshore applications resulting in unattractive economic to overall projects”, it said.

Prospective participants have until 31 March to submit their proposals. Petronas will spend April and May screening and assessing the proposals and the company intends to announce the winner in June this year.

Petronas added that the proposed solutions needed to be lightweight and have a small footprint, have a minimal equipment count compared to conventional systems and be easily maintained.

Other stipulations include having a low freezing point to avoid any solids blockage, a more efficient refrigerant with a high latent heat of vaporisation.

Also the proposed non-toxic, non-corrosive and environmentally friendly refrigerant must be a stable substance and should not decompose.

“The main challenge for cryogenic distillation of high CO2 gas with the presence of nitrogen is the high refrigeration energy requirement due to low operating temperature, resulting in high capital cost affecting the overall economics of the project,” noted Petronas.

The winner will have the opportunity to demonstrate its technology solution and/or to mature this solution with Petronas.

Prospective suppliers are advised to submit a short video to explain their technology for this innovation challenge, which is not limited to existing Petronas’ licensed vendors.

The operator added that shortlisted proposals might be requested to perform rig test verification at their own cost, with the site for the mock-up test to be advised by its solutions’ evaluation team.

Petronas and French supermajor Total in 2012 teamed up to undertake a joint study on the potential to develop the K5 sour gas field that has a 70% CO2 content.

This study also assessed CO2 management technologies such as carbon capture, transportation, and sequestration.