Hydrogen Production via High Pressure Autothermal Reforming of Ethanol

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Reformado Autotérmico a alta presión de etanol Reformado Autotérmico a alta presión de etanol Reformado Autotérmico a alta presión de etanol
Reformado Autotérmico a alta presión de etanol
Reformado Autotérmico a alta presión de etanol
Reformado Autotérmico a alta presión de etanol
  • Client: Own development
  • Start date: 2017
  • Ending date: 2018
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The purpose of the project has been to test a new method of hydrogen generation technology in a laboratory environment.

Nowadays, hydrogen represents an important product largely used as feedstock in the chemical industry for the production of higher value chemicals such as ammonia, methanol, Fischer Tropsch synthesis products, or in the conduction of hydro-treating processes in the refi ning and petrochemical industry. Hydrogen is considered as the most promising energy carrier for being used in the production of energy in fuel cell devices, thus representing a cleaner alternative for mobility and power generation that is environmental friendly.

Currently, almost all of the produced hydrogen is mainly obtained from fossil fuel feedstocks (i.e. natural gas and naphtha). Nevertheless, other reliable sources of hydrogen are being prospected. Autothermal reforming (ATR) of ethanol is regarded as an interesting process for the production of hydrogen.

The autothermal mode of operation represents a signifi cant step forward in reactor and plant design, operation and its control. Heat integration is very easy as it does not require heating tubes or coils in a furnace with burners, as in standard steam reforming technology. Reactor design is simple, working in adiabatic mode. All exothermal reactions of ethanol combustion and endothermal reactions of steam reforming take place in the same reactor and same catalyst. Furthermore, the reaction network for ATR of ethanol allows hydrogen yields greater than those achievable by methane steam reforming process at a given temperature and high pressure.

The high pressure operation allows for easy hydrogen recovery. Other low pressure ethanol hydrogen generators only work integrated with an open anode fuel cell, limiting the field of application.

Operating at high pressure through PSA or Palladium membranes technology allows obtaining pure hydrogen for a large variety of applications, from on board ones like transport combined with fuel cell (trains, submarines, boats, aircraft APU) to stationary production in industry or local generation for mobility refuelling stations like hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles, drones, etc.

Different catalyst have been tested for this novel application and other catalyst has been developed, providing better results. Reforming of ethanol is produced in autothermal mode at medium pressure (20 barg) at less than 600 ºC with very good performance. Testing environment was able to produce up to 0.15 Nm3/h of hydrogen, representing a considerable production for laboratory scale. Catalyst loading was also performed in the range of 20-100 grams, where macroscale reactor behaviours are observed and tested.

The final application commercial plant effi ciency is over 70% (LHV of hydrogen produced divided by LHV of ethanol used).

Additionally, bio-ethanol can also be used for conducting the production of hydrogen by ATR, thus representing a sustainable and renewable raw material. The hydrogen produced is considered green, which is a clear advantage over standard natural gas/naphtha steam reformers.

The system is patent pending. The technology is nowadays in TRL-3/4 as laboratory plant testing for main reactor is already done with enough size to test real reactor parameters. Pending integration with the rest of the plant and escalation.

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