Hydrogen Production via Steam Reforming: A Critical Analysis of MR and RMM Technologies


Hydrogen as the energy carrier of the future’ has been a topic discussed for decades and is today the subject of a new revival, especially driven by the investments in renewable electricity and the technological efforts done by high-developed industrial powers, such as Northern Europe and Japan. Although hydrogen production from renewable resources is still limited to small scale, local solutions, and R&D projects; steam reforming (SR) of natural gas at industrial scale is the cheapest and most used technology and generates around 8 kg CO2 per kg H2. This paper is focused on the process optimization and decarbonization of H2 production from fossil fuels to promote more efficient approaches based on membrane separation. In this work, two emerging configurations have been compared from the numerical point of view: the membrane reactor (MR) and the reformer and membrane module (RMM), proposed and tested by this research group. The rate of hydrogen production by SR has been calculated according to other literature works, a one-dimensional model has been developed for mass, heat, and momentum balances. For the membrane modules, the rate of hydrogen permeation has been estimated according to mass transfer correlation previously reported by this research group and based on previous experimental tests carried on in the first RMM Pilot Plant. The methane conversion, carbon dioxide yield, temperature, and pressure profile are compared for each configuration: SR, MR, and RMM. By decoupling the reaction and separation section, such as in the RMM, the overall methane conversion can be increased of about 30% improving the efficiency of the system.

Funding source: Part of this work was carried out within the framework of the project “Pure hydrogen from natural gas reforming up to total conversion obtained by integrating chemical reaction and membrane separation”, financially supported by MIUR (FISR DM 17/12/2002)-Italy
Related subjects: Production & Supply Chain
Countries: Italy

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