UCLA researchers in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering have designed a method to intensify the steam-methane reforming process used to industrially produce hydrogen.
Currently, the most economical process for hydrogen production is steam reforming of natural gas. In steam-methane reforming, natural gas reacts with water to produce hydrogen and other byproducts. The reactions taking place inside a reformer make its operation endothermic, and therefore a large heat load must be supplied for reforming to proceed. This heat load is typically provided through burning natural gas, thus reducing the amount of hydrogen that can be produced from a given quantity of natural gas, and characterizing the reforming operation as one that uses natural gas as fuel. In earlier IP-protected work (UCLA 2015-885), this UCLA research group proposed energetically enhanced reforming as a means of reducing reformer heat requirements, by adding varying amounts of carbon monoxide and additional water into the reformer’s feed.
The new innovation intensifies the energetically enhanced steam-methane reforming process by employing a sequence of catalytic membrane reactors to more rapidly withdraw hydrogen product, resulting in improved reaction efficiency and lower operating temperatures. The invention lowers, and in some cases eliminates, the amount of methane used as fuel. The amounts of carbon monoxide and water that need to be co-fed with natural gas into the reformer are reduced, while still delivering energetically enhanced reforming. The lower reformer heating requirements enable the use of renewable energy resources (such as concentrated solar power) in methane reforming-based hydrogen production.
Steam reforming, steam-methane reforming, hydrogen production/ manufacturing, endothermic reforming reactions, endothermic reactions