Available Technology

Conversion of Methane to Hydrogen and Synthesis Gas Using Bimetallic Oxygen Carriers

Research is active on the development of regenerable bimetallic oxygen carriers for use in methane conversion to hydrogen combined with chemical looping combustion systems. This invention is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Patent Abstract: 
Hydrogen (H2) produced from methane has garnered significant interest recently due to its environmental friendliness, abundance, and the wide range of commercial applications it can be used for. On a per unit weight basis,the amount of energy produced during H2combustion is higher than any other fuels. Current commercial H2production is based on methods like steam methane reforming, coal or biomass gasification, electrolysis, and thermochemical process. Energy efficiency and H2price data indicate that methane steam reforming, methane partial oxidation, and coal gasification are currently the most cost effective techniques for H2production. However, these techniques generate large quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) and require additional processing steps that include a water-gas shift reactor for converting carbon monoxide to H2and CO2, followed by a CO2separation step to produce a pure stream of H2. In addition, most of the reactions involved in H2production (e.g., methane steam reforming) are endothermic and heat must be provided for the reaction. Traditionally, methane has to be combusted in air to provide heat for the reaction, which creates additional CO2that must be separated prior to storage. Thisinvention describes a new method to produce pure H2from methane by combining two processes: methane chemical looping process (CLC) for production of heat using acopper oxide-ferric oxide oxygen carrierand the production of H2from methane decomposition using the reduced copper oxide-ferric oxide oxygen carrier and the heat from the CLC process. In addition, carbon formed from the methane decomposition process can be used directly or can be converted to synthesis gas using steam gasification. This method is capable of producing pure H2with a storage ready CO2stream.
Process allows for the production of pure H2derived from methane and synthesis gas with no CO2emissions -Bimetallic oxygen carriers demonstrate high stability and H2conversion efficiency over multiple oxidation/reduction cycles -Reduced oxygen carrier serves as the catalyst for methane decomposition to produce H2 -Heat for the methane decomposition process is supplied by the methane CLC process with the same oxygen carrier -Additional processing steps to separate H2from the gas stream are not required (e.g., the water-gas shift reaction for the conversion of carbon monoxide to CO2followed by H2separation is not required) -Resulting H2produced form these processes is suitable for production of useful chemicals -Processes can be applied to other hydrocarbons
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