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Journal of Chemistry
Volume 2016, Article ID 1764670, 5 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/1764670
Research Article

Thermodynamic Feasibility of Hydrogen-Rich Gas Production Supported by Iron Based Chemical Looping Process

1Department of Engineering, Vistula University, 3 Stokłosy Street, 02-787 Warsaw, Poland
2Central Mining Institute, Department of Energy Saving and Air Protection, Plac Gwarkow 1, 40-166 Katowice, Poland

Received 3 June 2016; Revised 25 July 2016; Accepted 27 July 2016

Academic Editor: Thijs A. Peters

Copyright © 2016 Grzegorz Słowiński and Adam Smoliński. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

The continuously increasing oil prices as well as stronger environmental regulations regarding greenhouse emissions made the greatest economic powers search a new, price competitive, and environment friendly energy carrier, such as hydrogen. The world research activities in these terms focus on the development of integrated hydrogen and power generating technologies, particularly technologies of hydrogen production from various carbonaceous resources, like methane, coal, biomass, or waste, often combined with carbon dioxide capture. In the paper the thermodynamic analysis of the enhancement of hydrogen production in iron based chemical looping process is presented. In this method, iron oxide is first reduced to iron with a reducing agent, such as carbon oxide, hydrogen, or mixture of both gases (synthesis gas), and then, in the inverse reaction with steam, it is regenerated to iron oxide, and pure stream of hydrogen is produced.

1. Introduction

Nowadays fossil fuel combustion process, particularly combustion of coal, contributes significantly to the increasing, negative environmental impact of a power sector [17]. The limited resources of fossil fuels, unstable oil and gas market, and restrictive environmental regulations regarding greenhouse gases emission imply the need for the development of price competitive and environment friendly energy carriers, like hydrogen [813]. It is environmentally neutral and may be produced in the process of steam gasification of coal or biomass/waste, reducing the carbon footprint of the power sector and contributing to the development of innovative clean coal technologies.

Hydrogen-rich gas production in gasification process is combined with CO2 separation, in two main steps [1319].

(I) The gasification step, in which coal is gasified to syngas and iron oxide is applied to oxidize carbon monoxide present in syngas and to enhance the Boudouard reaction (3) generating carbon dioxide and amorphous carbon: (II) Capture of carbon dioxide with CaO:Iron and iron oxide (Fe0.947O) is oxidized in oxygen or in air, and the heat from this exothermic reaction is utilized in calcination of calcium carbonate, generating a sequestration ready stream of CO2. In the paper the idea and thermodynamic analysis of the enhanced hydrogen production in iron based chemical looping process are presented. Iron oxide is first reduced to iron with a reducing agent, such as carbon oxide, hydrogen, or mixture of both gases (synthesis gas from gasification process), and then, in the inverse reaction with steam, it is regenerated to iron oxide, and pure stream of hydrogen is produced. The idea of the process is presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The concept of hydrogen-rich gas production supported by chemical looping process.

2. Thermodynamic Approach of the Process

The idea of hydrogen production from syngas with the application of iron oxide as an oxygen transfer compound requires systematic thermodynamic calculations [2022] to assess the feasibility of the process. In the paper the calculations of free Gibbs energies () at various temperatures were presented (see Supplementary Material available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/1764670). The free Gibbs energies of the studied reactions were calculated with the application of the HSC Chemistry ver. 3.0 [23].

The change in the free Gibbs energy of the system during the reaction is the results of the subtraction of change of the temperature and the entropy of the system multiplication result from the system enthalpy change. Mathematically it can be presented as follows:where denotes the temperature in K.

On the basis of the value of the heat given off or absorbed, the reactions can be classified as either exothermic () or endothermic (). The same classification could be made based on the free Gibbs energy of the system, which may decrease (exergonic reaction: ) or increase during the reaction (endergonic reaction: ).

There exist three thermodynamically stable iron oxides, such as nonstoichiometric ferrous oxide, also called wustite, ferric oxide, known as hematite (iron (III) oxide: Fe2O3), and ferrous ferric oxide (iron (II, III) oxide: Fe3O4), named magnetite or lodestone. Nonstoichiometric wustite is usually denoted by Fe0.947O. There are a number of nonstoichiometric iron oxides of the general formula , where denotes a number between 0 and 0.1. It means that the equilibrium diagram of Fe/FeO/Fe3O4 in H2-H2O atmosphere at higher temperatures will be more complex. The thermochemical tables, however, usually include only Fe0.947O phase. Moreover, in the literature the formula of wustite is often presented as FeO (iron (II) oxide).

3. Results and Discussion

3.1. Iron Oxidation with Steam

Iron can be oxidized with steam to magnetite (Fe3O4) or nonstoichiometric wustite (Fe0.947O). Iron oxidation with steam to hematite (Fe2O3) is thermodynamically unfeasible, which may be easily confirmed by considering the equilibrium atmosphere composition for the reaction of magnetite oxidation to hematite. The possible chemical reactions in a system of Fe, Fe3O4, and Fe0.947O in H2/H2O atmosphere are as follows: Figure 2 presents the phase stability diagram for this system. The triple point of the diagram is situated at 510°C and at 17.8% vol. steam. This temperature is lower than the values usually cited of 571°C [24] or 567°C [25].

Figure 2: The phase stability diagram of Fe, Fe0.947O, and Fe3O4 phases in H2O-H2 atmosphere.

The diagram can be applied in evaluation of the theoretical limitations of gas composition produced by iron oxidation or iron oxides reduction. In the hydrogen production process, iron is introduced into the H2O-rich atmosphere, where it is unstable (see Figure 2). During Fe-steam reaction (12), steam is consumed and hydrogen is produced. As a result, the atmosphere composition changes in the direction of more hydrogen-rich states. When the atmosphere composition achieves the borderline between iron and iron oxide stability regions, for oxidation reaction reaches zero, the Fe becomes stable, and the reaction stops. Thus, the possible compositions of gaseous mixture produced during Fe-steam reaction are situated above the borderline dividing Fe-iron oxides region. Similarly, the reduction of iron oxides to Fe is possible by introducing iron oxides to the region of Fe stability, and the composition of the reduction reaction gas product can be found below the borderline dividing Fe and iron oxides regions.

At the temperatures below the triple point, it is possible to produce 1.33 mol of hydrogen per 1 mol of iron (see reaction (12)). The maximum thermodynamically feasible concentration of hydrogen varies from 99.9% vol. at 100°C to 82.8% vol. at 500°C. Above the triple point, it is possible to produce 1.06 mol of hydrogen from 1 mol of Fe in reaction (13) or 1.33 mol of H2 in reaction (12). In case of reaction (13), the maximum thermodynamically viable hydrogen concentration varies from 78% vol. at 600°C to 64.6% vol. at 1000°C. Performing reaction (12) under the conditions above the triple point would result in the achievable hydrogen concentrations between 62.0% vol. at 600°C and 11.4% vol. at 1000°C. In general, the steam-iron reaction requires possibly low temperature to ensure the potentially highest hydrogen concentration and, at the same time, reasonable process kinetics. The reaction kinetics could be improved by Fe doping with other metals, exhibiting catalytic effects [20, 21]. Applying the lower temperature is also beneficial for Fe structure stability degrading at higher temperatures. However, the elevated temperatures cannot be avoided in the reduction stage. The presence of a few percentages of steam in hydrogen gas should not pose any serious operational problems. In fact, low temperature Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFCs), applicable as potential hydrogen consumers, require membrane wetting [12, 26]. If necessary, water can be removed from hydrogen by cooling and condensation.

3.2. Iron Oxides Reduction with Hydrogen

Iron oxides reduction with hydrogen is reverse to the oxidation, and the thermochemical limitations of the process are given in Figure 2. It can be seen that Fe3O4 or Fe0.947O reduction to metallic iron terminates at relatively low concentration of steam in H2-H2O atmosphere. At 100°C it is 0.1% vol. steam, and it grows to 35.4% vol. at 1000°C. Thus, the higher temperatures are favorable for the reduction stage. However, even at higher temperature (of 1000°C), if iron oxides are to be reduced in a flow of hot hydrogen, the flue gas will still contain over 60% vol. of hydrogen. This implies that hydrogen needs to be separated from hydrogen/steam stream and recycled.

3.3. Iron Oxides Reduction with Carbon Monoxide

The iron oxides reduction process may be performed with carbon oxide, according to the following reactions: Figure 3 presents the phase stability diagram for the system Fe/Fe0.947O/Fe3O4 in the CO-CO2 atmosphere. The maximum utilization of CO in Fe3O4 reduction decreases from 74% vol. at 100°C to 26% vol. at 1000°C. This means that the reduction should be done at possibly low temperature for the optimal utilization of CO. Three other aspects, however, need to be also considered. First, the reaction kinetics may be insufficient at low temperatures; second, low temperatures are thermodynamically favorable for carbon deposition in the Boudouard reaction [18, 27]; and, third, the reduction may be performed with the application of synthesis gas, rather than with a pure CO stream. As it was shown in Section 3.2, the reduction of magnetite with hydrogen is more efficient at high temperatures.

Figure 3: The phase stability diagram of Fe, Fe0.947O, and Fe3O4 phases in CO-CO2 atmosphere.
3.4. Iron Oxides Reduction with Methane

It is assumed that iron oxide reduction with methane goes through the reactions: H2, CO, and C do not constitute the products of the reduction reactions. In Figure 4 the phase stability diagram for the system Fe/Fe0.947O/Fe3O4 in the CH4-CO2-H2O atmosphere is presented. It can be seen that the reaction equilibrium depends strongly on the temperature; high consumption of methane is achieved at relatively high temperatures. Increased pressure moves the equilibrium borders to higher temperatures range.

Figure 4: The phase stability diagram of Fe, Fe0.947O, and Fe3O4 phases in the CH4-CO2-H2O atmosphere.
3.5. Remarks on a Reducing Gas Consumption in the Iron Oxides Reduction Process

The reduction of magnetite at temperatures over the triple point proceeds in the order of magnetite, wustite, and then iron. It could be explained on the example of magnetite reduction with hydrogen at 800°C.

10 mol of Fe3O4 can be reduced at 800°C in a single stage by blowing with pure hydrogen. The necessary amount of H2 is given by the following equation: The process consumes 135.92 mol of pure H2. The flue gas produced contains 40 mol of H2O (29.43% vol.) and 95.92 mol of H2 (70.57% vol.). The same process could be conducted in two stages. In the first one magnetite is reduced to wustite in reversed reaction (14). The hydrogen consumption isThe reaction produces Fe0.947O. The flue gas is composed of 8.32 mol of H2O (74.07% vol.) and 2.91 mol of H2 (25.93% vol.).

In the second stage wustite is reduced to iron in reversed reaction (16). The hydrogen consumption isThe flue gas contains 31.67 mol of H2O (29.43% vol.) and 75.94 mol of H2 (70.57% vol.).

In total, in the second case of reduction (two-stage process) 118.83 mol of H2 is consumed, which is 17.69 mol less than in the single-stage process. The flue gas from the reduction of wustite to iron contains enough H2 to transform magnetite to wustite. This creates an additional opportunity for improved gas management in case that several iron containing reactors are applied. The flue gas from the Fe0.947O/Fe stage in one reactor may be utilized for driving the Fe3O4/Fe0.947O reaction in the next reactor.

4. Summary and Conclusions

On the basis of the thermodynamic analysis of the enhanced hydrogen production in iron based chemical looping process it may be concluded that the steam-iron reaction should be carried out at possibly low temperature, ensuring the potentially highest hydrogen concentrations and, at the same time, reasonable process kinetics.

Analysis of the phase stability diagram of Fe, Fe0.947O, and Fe3O4 phases in H2O-H2 atmosphere allowed concluding that, at temperatures below the triple point, it is feasible to produce 1.33 mol of hydrogen per 1 mol of iron. The maximum thermodynamically feasible concentration of hydrogen varies from 99.9% vol. at 100°C to 82.8% vol. at 500°C.

Above the triple point of the phase stability diagram of Fe, Fe0.947O, and Fe3O4 phases in H2O-H2 atmosphere, it is possible to produce 1.06 mol of hydrogen from 1 mol of Fe (in the reaction ) or 1.33 mol of hydrogen (in the reaction ), respectively. The maximum thermodynamically feasible hydrogen concentration varies from 78.0% vol. at 600°C to 64.6% vol. at 1000°C.

Competing Interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, Poland, under Grant no. 11310046.

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