(424h) Characteristics of Ethylene Generation in the Mixing Region of Autothermal Reforming Applications | AIChE

(424h) Characteristics of Ethylene Generation in the Mixing Region of Autothermal Reforming Applications


Bae, J., Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
Dean, A. M., Colorado School of Mines

preparation prior to a reforming catalyst is one of the important challenges in
developing reliable hydrocarbon reformers. Reactants should be mixed properly
before supplying it to the downstream catalyst, and unwanted gas-phase
reactions in the mixing region should be suppressed at the same time. Ethylene,
a well-known deposit precursor, is one of the major products from gas-phase
reactions, which can cause deleterious catalyst failure even with a small
amount as ~ 1,000 ppm1. Therefore, it is essential to characterize
ethylene generation from gas-phase reactions before designing the mixing
chamber of a hydrocarbon reformer. Previous works2-5 showed that
gas-phase reactions are closely related to mass and heat transfer; thus, the
coupled transport-kinetics was developed to describe the gas-phase reactions in
the mixing region of a hydrocarbon reformer6.

The mixing
chamber design described previously6 was used for the CFD calculations.
A mixture of fuel/steam vapor and air are supplied separately and mixed before
entering a downstream reforming catalyst. The initial autothermal
reforming (ATR) conditions had an O/C ratio of 1.6 and a
S/C ratio of 1.5. The flow rates of reactants were calculated with the
assumption that the reformer is designed for a 5kWe-class system.

N-heptane was selected as a surrogate liquid fuel. The
gas-phase kinetic mechanism for n-heptane
used for the CFD calculations was based on that developed by Westbrook
and co-workers7-9 and consists
of 654 species and 2827 reactions. The mechanism was reduced in size because the coupled transport-kinetics model is limited to 50 species. As illustrated in Figure 1, a reduced mechanism
consisting of 50 species and 98 reactions was found to be reasonably consistent
with the predictions of the original mechanism. This figure shows the
decrease in reactivity as the temperature increases from 450 to 550 oC. This region of decreasing reactivity
with increasing temperature is known as the Negative Temperature Coefficient
(NTC) region. The reasons for this unusual behavior are
discussed in previous
work10. Applying the reduced reaction kinetics, the
coupled transport-kinetics analysis was performed, and the calculations showed
that significant ethylene generation
is predicted when the inlet temperature is either below
450 oC or above 625 oC as described in Figure 2.

Figure 1 Product distribution of n-heptane oxidation modeling results under the nominal ATR condition (O/C=1.6, S/C=1.5): solid line (LLNL
mechanism) and dashed line (a reduced mechanism)

Figure 2 Predicted distributions of ethylene concentration
on the cross section shown in (a) at inlet temperature of (b) 450 oC
and (c) 625 oC

At lower temperature
(450 oC), the local O/C ratio (~1.9) is
higher than the overall O/C ratio (1.6) at the location of maximum ethylene
production. Therefore, the more oxidizing environment
promotes ethylene production. Figure 3 describes the results of the perfectly mixed
kinetic study using the reduced mechanism. The rate of ethylene
production increases as O/C increases. In this temperature range, most of the
ethylene is produced by the reaction C2H5+O2 = C2H4+HO2.

Figure 3 Perfectly-mixed
predictions of the reaction
rate profiles for ethylene production at
the inlet temperature of 450 oC (S/C=1.5)

At higher temperature (625 oC), the rate of
ethylene generation and the temperature change are much lower compared to the
lower inlet temperature case. The rate of ethylene generation peaks at two
points (before and after the nozzle). The results showed that the heat release rate is
moderate but coincident with the ethylene generation rate. Figure 4 describes the results of perfectly mixed kinetic calculations also using
the reduced mechanism. The effect of O/C is opposite to that predicted at
the lower temperature. At the higher temperature, pyrolysis chemistry is dominant, so
that the rate of
ethylene production decreases as O/C increases. In this temperature range, high-temperature chemistry is activated and alkyl radical
decompositions begin to contribute to ethylene production by the following
reactions: n-C3H7 = CH3+C2H4 and n-C4H9
= C2H5+C2H4. Ethylene
production peaks in two locations in the coupled transport-kinetics
analysis. At the peak
upstream of the nozzle, the local reactant composition is O/C = 0.7. The more pyrolytic environment stimulates the ethylene production;
thus the finitely mixed case (266 ppm) showed more
ethylene production than the perfectly mixed case (114 ppm).

Figure 4 Perfectly-mixed
predictions of the reaction
rate profiles for ethylene production at
the inlet temperature of 625 oC (S/C=1.5)

The coupled transport-kinetics
analysis was performed to investigate the characteristics of ethylene
production in the mixing region of a hydrocarbon reformer. At lower
temperature, most of ethylene is produced by oxygen addition; thus, ethylene
production is stimulated with efficient mixing of fuel/steam vapor stream with
the air stream. On the other hand, pyrolysis chemistry dominates ethylene
production near 625 oC, and ethylene
generation can be suppressed by better mixing. The results suggest that the
complexities of the gas-phase kinetics demand that careful attention be paid to
design of the mixing region upstream of an ATR reformer to avoid undesirable
gas-phase reactions that have the potential to interfere with proper catalytic


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