Crosslinked polyimide hollow fiber membranes for aggressive natural gas feed streams
Omole, Imona C.
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Natural gas is one of the fastest growing primary energy sources in the world today. The increasing world demand for energy requires increased production of high quality natural gas. For the natural gas to be fed into the mainline gas transportation system, it must meet the pipe-line quality standards. Natural gas produced at the wellhead is usually "sub-quality" and contains various impurities such as CO2, H2S, and higher hydrocarbons, which must be removed to meet specifications. Carbon dioxide is usually the most abundant impurity in natural gas feeds and high CO2 partial pressures in the feed can lead to plasticization, which causes loss of some methane product and may ultimately render the membrane ineffective. Moreover, the presence of highly sorbing higher hydrocarbons in the feed can further reduce membrane performance. Covalent crosslinking has been shown to increase plasticization resistance in dense films by suppressing the degree of swelling and segmental chain mobility in the polymer, thereby preserving the selectivity of the membrane. This research focuses on extending the dense film success to asymmetric hollow fibers. In this work, the effect of high pressure CO2 (up to 400 psia CO2 partial pressure) on CO2/CH4 mixed gas separation performance was investigated on defect-free the hollow fiber membrane at different degrees of crosslinking. All the crosslinked fibers were shown to exhibit good resistance to selectivity losses from CO2 induced plasticization, significantly more than the uncrosslinked fibers. Robust resistance of the hollow fiber membranes in the presence of toluene (a highly sorbing contaminant) was also demonstrated as the membranes showed no plasticization. Antiplasticization was found to occur in the presence of toluene feeds with the crosslinkable fibers used in this work.