Distributed Power and CO2 Sequestration Reformer-Engine

Luke Giugliano, John Simon

Partners: Dr. Jennifer Wilcox


Steam methane reforming (SMR) is an industrial power generation process that converts natural gas to hydrogen, separates the hydrogen through a palladium membrane, and burns it to extract energy. The process has enormous potential for waste heat recovery, CO2 sequestration, and reduction of capital cost. The goal of this study is to investigate the technoeconomic feasibility of an optimized SMR system with CO2 capture relative to other carbon-free power generation technologies. A thermodynamic model was developed to design and analyze chemical reactions, power generation, and waste heat recovery. The model is currently being validated using experimental data from a 100 W scale test facility built at Colorado State University. The overall system efficiency is currently at 43% and may be driven higher at elevated pressures. The cost of implementing SMR at the industrial scale is largely driven by the material cost of the hydrogen-selective palladium membrane. The amount of palladium in this system is extremely small due to a novel porous sintered steel support and uniform palladium deposition by electroless plating. Therefore, the capital cost and Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) are significantly lower than existing SMR systems. At a 6 MW scale, the LCOE of a SMR system with CO2 sequestration can be as low as $139 / MWh. This is competitive with other carbon-free power generation methods including industrial solar photovoltaic ($140 / MWh), solar thermal ($139 / MWh), and fuel cells ($137 / MWh). This study proved that an optimized SMR system at the industrial scale is an economically competitive carbon-free power generation technology.

In this effort, Colorado State University and the Colorado School of Mines are developing an a low-cost system that can simultaneously produce electricity and separate CO2 from natural gas at scales relevant for distributed generation. The team is (1) developing a detailed cost estimate for a system at the 50 kWe scale, and (2) documenting heat integration concepts. Since the beginning of 2017, the team has begun designing and fabricating a system at a 100 W scale for proof of concept demonstration. Test results from this facility will be used to guide the estimate of a scaled up version. 6 MWe is a relevant scale for economic estimation, and thus the team has begun developing various heat integration concepts for the system and the membrane reformer.