A direct method of converting natural gas into ethylene is the heterogeneously catalyzed oxidative coupling of methane (OCM), however, only with hydrocarbon yields limited to 30-35% despite enormous efforts to optimize the catalysts. By combining the exothermic OCM with a secondary process, namely steam reforming of methane (SRM), the methane conversion can be increased significantly while improving temperature control and simultaneously producing valuable synthesis gas. In this thesis, two different reactor concepts were developed to integrate the OCM and SRM reactions in an overall autothermal process, so that the OCM process is effectively cooled and the generated reaction energy is efficiently used to produce synthesis gas. The integration is most optimally achieved on the catalyst particle scale, which would eliminate the need for external heat exchange and opens up the possibility to use distributive oxygen dosing with which much higher product yields can be achieved. It is proposed to use a dual function catalyst particle in which the two chemical processes are physically separated by an inert, porous layer, such that additional diffusional resistances are intentionally created to control the reaction rates. This concept was studied with numerical simulations on the scale of a single catalyst particle and on reactor scale. It was found that the SRM and OCM reaction rates could be effectively tuned to achieve autothermal operation at the reactor scale, while the methane conversion was enhanced from 44% to 55%. An alternative integrated process can be achieved by combining OCM and SRM in a heat exchange reactor comprising of two separate reaction chambers which are thermally coupled. The OCM is carried out in packed bed reverse flow membrane reactor tubes submerged into a fluidized bed where the unconverted methane and byproducts from OCM are reformed, thus producing synthesis gas and consuming the reaction heat liberated by OCM. The feasibility of this concept is supported by experiments of OCM on a Mn/Na2WO4/SiO2 catalyst in a packed bed (porous Al2O3) membrane reactor. The results demonstrated that a C2 yield of 25-30 % can be achieved and that distributed feed of oxygen is optimal for the combined OCM/SRM reactor concept.
|Award date||5 Mar 2010|
|Place of Publication||Enschede|
|Publication status||Published - 5 Mar 2010|