Syngas production from heavy liquid fuel reforming in inert porous media

Pastore, Andrea (2010-11-16)


In the effort to introduce fuel cell technology in the field of decentralized and mobile power generators, a hydrocarbon reformer to syngas seems to be the way for the market uptake. In this thesis, a potential technology is developed and investigated, in order to convert commercial liquid fuel (diesel, kerosene and biodiesel) to syngas. The fundamental concept is to oxidise the fuel in a oxygen depleted environment, obtaining hydrogen and carbon monoxide as main products of the reaction. In order to extend the flammability limit of hydrocarbon/air mixtures, the rich combustion experiments have been carried out in a two-layer porous medium combustor, which stabilises a flame at the matrix interface and recirculates the enthalpy of the hot products in order to enhance the reaction rates at ultra-rich equivalence ratio. This thesis demonstrates the feasibility of the concept, by exploring characteristic parameters for a compact, reliable and cost effective device. Specifically, a range of equivalence ratios, thermal loads and porous materials have been examined. n-heptane was successfully reformed up to an equivalence ratio of 3, reaching a conversion efficiency (based on the lower heating value of H2 and CO over the fuel input) up to 75% for a packed bed of alumina beads. Thermal loads from P=2 to 12 kW at phi=2.0 demonstrated that heat losses can be reduced to 10%. Similarly, diesel, kerosene and bio-diesel were reformed to syngas in a Zirconia foam burner with conversion efficiency over 60%. The effect of different burners, thermal loads and equivalence ratios have also been assessed for these commercial fuels, leading to equivalent conclusions. A preliminary attempt to reduce the content of CO and hydrocarbons in the reformate has been also performed using commercial steam reforming and water-gas shift reaction catalysts, obtaining encouraging results. Finally, soot emission has been assessed, demonstrating particle formation for all the fuels above phi=2.0, with biodiesel showing the lowest soot formation tendency among all the fuels tested.