The SPR is an excellent gas/liquid mixer and one of the most widely used industrial gas/liquid mixing processes in hydrogenation. Hydrogenation involves the mixing of hydrogen gas into liquids (usually oils) at elevated temperatures and pressures. This process is usually hindered by poor mixing. Hydrogenation is done on a micro liter scale in pharmaceuticals, tens of gallons a minute in food products, hundred of gallons a minute in chemicals and thousands of gallons minute in the petroleum industry. Another potential home for hydrogenation is renewable fuels and specifically renewable diesel. In the renewable diesel process waste vegetable oil is hydrogenated to form renewable diesel fuel at elevated temperatures and pressures. This renewable diesel is often considered superior to biodiesel as it doesn’t have any of the cold flow issues of biodiesel and can therefore be used as aviation fuel or pumped in pipelines that carry aviation fuel. It is chemically identical to petroleum diesel. Companies such as Syntroleum and Tyson Foods are already working together to make this a commercial reality.
The SPR could be an excellent tool for renewable diesel and hydrogenation in general due to its superior mass transfer (mixing) capability. With better mixing less hydrogen could be used at lower temperatures and pressures resulting in a cost savings. Final product quality could also be higher due to more complete reactions and higher yields. The SPR could also have a safety benefit due to its smaller mixing volume compared to large stirred reaction vessels. Hydrogenation is a diverse and large market with many potential outlets.