545757 Zoneflow Structured Catalytic Reactors for Steam Methane Reforming: Multi-Scale Modelling and Pilot Plant Testing

Tuesday, June 4, 2019: 4:00 PM
Texas Ballroom D (Grand Hyatt San Antonio)
Florent Minette1, Sanjay Katheria2, Jianguo Xu3, Sanjiv Ratan3 and Juray De Wilde4, (1)Materials and Process Engineering (IMAP), Universite catholique de Louvain (UCL), Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, (2)Materials and Process Engineering (IMAP), Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, (3)ZoneFlow Reactor Technologies LLC, Windsor, CT, (4)Materials and Process Engineering (IMAP), Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

The paper addresses the multi-scale modelling and pilot plant testing of ZoneFlow structured catalytic reactors for steam methane reforming (zoneflowtech.com). Compared to conventional packed beds, ZoneFlow reactors offer reduced pressure drop, improved heat transfer and increased catalyst effectiveness. Aspects discussed include the catalyst, kinetic modelling, reactor modelling and required scale-bridging strategies, and pilot plant testing and multi-scale model validation.

Wash coated or inter-diffused catalyst coatings (Alloy Surfaces, Co. Inc.) can be applied. For the kinetic modelling, experiments with a micro-packed bed reactor were carried out. Plug flow, isothermal operation, small pressure drop and absence of interfacial and intra-catalyst transport limitations are ensured by careful reactor design and selection of the operating conditions. Model discrimination and parameter estimation are based on regression and physico-chemical and statistical testing. The concept of rate determining step was applied to derive the Hougen-Watson Langmuir-Hinschelwood type rate equations. The latter allow accounting for the details of the reaction mechanism while facilitating integration at the catalyst and reactor scale. A total of 30 possible sets of rate equations were tested. To describe intra-catalyst transport, a continuum description of the catalyst coating was adopted and the effective transport properties determined.

A CFD reactor model was developed to account for the complex fluid dynamics. To account for the effects of turbulence, the RANS approach with effective transport properties and the standard k-epsilon turbulence model with wall functions were adopted. Cold flow pressure drop tests in a wide range of flow rates allowed independently determining the turbulence model parameters. Thermal conduction in the reactor tube and in the reactor internals coated with catalyst and radiative heat transfer were accounted for, the latter applying the Rosseland-WSGGM approach. The CFD code was coupled with the calculation of the intra-catalyst diffusion-reaction calculation, using the independently determined reaction kinetics.

Finally, cold, hot and SMR pilot plant test are presented that allow validation of different aspects of the multi-scale reactor model and its application for the design and optimization at the commercial scale.

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