287755 Advanced Reactors for Methane Steam Reforming

Tuesday, October 30, 2012: 2:10 PM
321 (Convention Center )
Juray De Wilde1, Philippe Eliaers1 and Gilbert F. Froment2, (1)Materials and Process Engineering, UCL, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, (2)Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

            Methane steam reforming is conventionally carried out in a multi-tubular packed bed reactor. To supply the heat for the endothermic reactions, the reactor tubes are suspended in a furnace. Pressure drop constraints impose the use of sufficiently large catalyst particles. Because the main steam reforming reactions are fast, intra-particle diffusion limitations cannot be avoided and the catalyst is not used efficiently. The rate of heat transfer between the inner wall of the reactor tubes and the process gas and material related constraints on the maximum tube wall temperature are also limiting the throughput.

            The performance of advanced reactors for methane steam reforming, removing the above mentioned limitations, is studied in this work. Dual-zone structured catalytic reactors are focused on. They consist of a central core and an outer casing. The central core is constructed from perforated cones. The resistance to flow of the core and the resulting pressure drop and flow distribution over core and casing can be adjusted by the number of perforations and their size. The outer casing is designed to improve the heat transfer between the reactor tube inner wall and the process gas, while maintaining a low pressure drop. It consists of alternating connected sectors of blades moving the flow towards and away from the wall. The catalyst is coated on the reactor internals. The use of a thin catalyst layer allows increasing the catalyst efficiency for the main steam reforming reactions.

Detailed 3D Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations and under typical commercial operating conditions are presented. A hybrid CFD model is used. In the casing, close to the wall, the full details of the geometry are described and the Reynolds Averaged Navier-Stokes equations are solved. Turbulence is accounted for via the turbulent viscosity, conductivity and diffusivities. These properties are calculated from the turbulent kinetic energy and turbulence dissipation rate for which additional continuity equations are solved. The main steam reforming reactions are described using detailed reaction kinetics (Xu and Froment, 1989). Because the number of perforations in the central core is large and their size small, a porous medium description is adopted for the core. The effective conductivity and diffusivity in the porous medium are accounted for.

The CFD simulations allow optimizing (i) the reactor geometry and related flow distribution and heat transfer and (ii) the amount of catalyst and the distribution of the catalyst in the reactor. The resulting performance of the advanced steam reformer in terms of methane conversion, pressure drop, catalyst efficiency and heat transfer is discussed. A comparison with a classical packed bed reactor is made.


- J.G. Xu, G.F. Froment, AICHE J., 35 (1), p. 88-96, 1989(a); p. 97-103, 1989.

- J. De Wilde, G.F. Froment, Fuel, published on-line, 2012 (doi: 10.1016/j.fuel.2011.08.068).

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See more of this Session: Catalytic Hydrogen Generation - General II
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