Syngas production from heavy liquid fuel reforming in inert porous media

Pastore, Andrea 

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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.

Syngas production, Rich combustion, Porous burner, Superadiabatic combustion, Fuel reforming
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge