To protect environmental and human health, many nations strictly regulate the emissions of SOx molecules produced by the burning of sulfur-containing hydrocarbons. To avoid these undesirable emissions, sulfur-rich hydrocarbons are processed to remove the sulfur before combustion or other applications. Generally this is accomplished via hydrodesulfurization, which involves the catalyzed reaction of hydrogen gas with the sulfur-rich hydrocarbons to produce hydrogen sulfide and a relatively sulfur-free hydrocarbon product. As reserves with higher and higher sulfur contents are developed, there is increased need for efficient desulfurization methods.
Currently the hydrogen sulfide generated by this process is converted to elemental sulfur and water via the Claus process. We are developing a process that would decompose hydrogen sulfide into hydrogen gas and elemental sulfur. Such a process would allow the recycling of hydrogen in the hydrodesulfurization process. Additionally, many natural gas reserves contain significant fractions of hydrogen sulfide. The decomposition process in development would allow the production of hydrogen gas, a relatively valuable product, from what has always been a liability in hydrocarbon extractions.