A method for cracking a liquid hydrocarbon composition (e.g. crude oil) to produce a cracked hydrocarbon product. A liquid hydrocarbon composition is initially provided. An electrical arc is generated directly within the hydrocarbon composition so that the arc is entirely submerged in the composition. Arc generation is preferably accomplished using a primary and secondary electrode each having a first end submerged in the composition. The first ends of the electrodes are separated from each other to form a gap therebetween. An electrical potential is then applied to the electrodes to generate the arc within the gap. A reactive gas is thereafter delivered to the arc which forms a bubble around the arc. Gas delivery may be accomplished by providing a passageway through each electrode and delivering the gas through the passageways. The arc and gas cooperate to produce a plasma which efficiently cracks the hydrocarbon composition.
CONTRACTUAL ORIGIN OF THE INVENTION
The United States Government has rights in this invention disclosed under Contract Number DE-AC07-76ID01570 between the U.S. Department of Energy and EG&G Idaho, Inc., now Contract Number DE-AC07-94ID13223 with Lockheed Idaho Technologies Company.