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Thermal energy from concentrated sunlight is used to reacted natural gas with steam to form syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide).


Technology

What is it?

Thermal energy from concentrated sunlight is used to react natural gas with steam to form syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide).

Why is it important?

This process allows the use of sunlight to provide heat required for the reforming process. The conventional process (steam methane reforming) is well understood and established at industrial scale.

Characteristics

  • Inputs: Steam reforming - Water, sunlight (concentrated for thermal energy), natural gas
  • By-products: CO2 (resulting from purification step to increase hydrogen production)
  • Operating temperature: 700 to 850°C

Benefits

  • Well understood industrially, with a variety of technology suppliers available for the catalyst, reaction system and downstream processes, including ammonia production
  • Proven with demonstrations up to 600kWt
  • Operating temperature compatible with some thermal storage technologies
  • Easily hybridised

Limitations

  • High carbon dioxide emissions (requires CCUS)

RD&D priorities

  • Developing and demonstrating CCUS technology to minimise CO2 emissions
  • Develop cheap and effective hydrogen separation systems to obtain appropriately pure hydrogen for specific applications
  • Improve reactor design and materials to accommodate highly endothermic reactions and thermal cycling
  • Integrate thermal storage for continuous operation

Known active organisations

  • The Australian National University
  • CSIRO
  • Flinders University
  • The Future Fuels Cooperative Research Centre

Other opportunities like this

  • A combination of SMR and combustion of the fuel (methane), where steam is added to the oxidation process. The heat from the oxidation component supplies the energy required for the steam reforming process.

  • A chemical loop utilises a recyclable metal with water and hydrocarbon feedstocks to produce hydrogen, water and carbon dioxide. The metal is involved in a repeating cycle of reaction steps

  • Natural gas is mixed with steam (and/or carbon dioxide) in the presence of a catalyst at high temperatures and moderate pressure to produce syngas.

Process group

Readiness Level

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