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Biogas is reacted with steam and/or CO2 in a non-thermal plasma reactor integrating with a suitable catalyst to produce hydrogen rich syngas and/or liquid short chain oxygenates (e.g. MeOH).



Technology

What is it?

Biogas is reacted with steam and/or CO2 in a non-thermal plasma reactor integrating with a suitable catalyst to produce hydrogen rich syngas and/or liquid short chain oxygenates (e.g. MeOH). Biogas is obtained via the anaerobic digestion of biomass; this method is considered a composite of biological hydrogen production and biomass conversion.

Why is it important?

Biomass is plentiful and regenerative and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making this process carbon neutral. Coupling the process with CCS has the potential to make it carbon negative. Depending on the targeted product, CO2 can be directly utilised and consumed in the reforming process. Liquid products can be easily transported from remote locations or exported.

Characteristics

  • Inputs: Biogas, water, CO2, electricity (to generate non-thermal plasma)
  • By-products: CO2
  • Operating temperature: 200 to 300°C
  • Energy efficiency: 1-20%

Benefits

  • Makes use of biogas obtained from biomass and waste streams
  • Zero-to-low carbon emissions
  • Operable at small and medium scales
  • Operates at low temperature and atmospheric pressure
  • Can eliminate tars and VOCs in the biogas as part of the reforming process
  • Responsive and can be used with intermittent electricity sources
  • Can produce liquid fuel/hydrogen carriers

Limitations

  • Carbon balance depends on electricity source
  • Limited selectivity (depending on desired product)
  • Low yield and energy efficiency
  • CO2 may be produced as a by-product (in the case of pure H¬2 production)

RD&D priorities

  • Develop and demonstrate effective means of integrating carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) to achieve zero-to-low carbon emissions
  • Improve anaerobic digestion process
  • Develop catalysts tailored for use in a plasma reactor
  • Build fundamental understanding of synergistic plasma catalysis mechanisms
  • Improve selectivity, yield, and energy efficiency of the plasma reactor

Known active organisations

  • Queensland University of Technology
  • The University of Newcastle
  • The University of Western Australia

Other opportunities like this

  • Biogas is mixed with steam in the presence of a catalyst at high temperatures (~750°C) and moderate pressure to produce syngas.

  • Biomass gasification for hydrogen production involves the thermochemical conversion of biomass (such as crop and forest residues) with a controlled amount of steam and oxygen, to syngas at temperatures over ~700°C. This is followed by the water-gas shift reaction to increase the yield and concentration of hydrogen.

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