Design of a thermally balanced membrane reformer for hydrogen production



Hydrogen production by autothermal methane steam reforming in a catalytic fixed bed membrane reactor has been analyzed and simulated. The two-compartment reactor indirectly couples the endothermic steam reforming with methane oxidation, while hydrogen is separated by a permselective Pd membrane. Simulations of the reactor, using published kinetics, map the acceptable domain of operation and the optimal set of operating parameters. The simulations exhibit slow-moving thermal fronts and the steady-state operation domains bounded by stationary fronts, separating domains of upstream and downstream-moving fronts. Front velocity depends on thermal coupling and hydrogen separation. An analytical approximation for the thermal front velocity in a thermally balanced reactor has been developed. © 2008 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 2008