(124e) Computational Fluid Dynamics Based Design of a Novel Reactor Technology for the Oxidative Coupling of Methane

Authors: 
Vandewalle, L., Ghent University, Laboratory For Chemical Technolo

Computational fluid dynamics based design of a novel reactor
technology for the oxidative coupling of methane

Kevin M. Van Geem, Laurien A. Vandewalle, Guy
B. Marin

Abstract

The low natural gas price and the large amounts of shale and
natural gas have created a renewed interest in methane as a source of liquid
energy carriers or as a raw material for the chemical industry. Oxidative
coupling of methane (OCM) is considered as one of the most promising processes
for valorizing methane by transforming it to ethene in a single step. However,
two key challenges have to be addressed before OCM can be considered as an
alternative gas-to-chemical technology, namely the low yields of ethene and
what to do with the substantial heat release of the reaction. Both these
challenges can be overcome in the reactor technology that is proposed in this
work, i.e. the gas-solid vortex reactor in a static geometry (GSVR-SG).

OCM is initiated at the catalyst surface by the generation
of methyl radicals. Methyl radicals recombine in the gas phase to yield ethane,
which then dehydrogenates to ethene. The C2 products as well as the methyl
radicals are, however, exposed to further oxidation, leading to the undesirable
COx formation. The strong exothermicity of OCM furthermore implies that
efficient heat removal is critical to prevent combustion of the reaction
products. In order to prevent the unwanted propagation of the gas-phase
reactions and efficiently address the large amount of heat released, reactors
with short gas-phase residence time and efficient heat transfer are preferred
for OCM. Hence the GSVR−SG, developed at the Laboratory for Chemical
Technology (Ghent University), emerges as an excellent reactor choice for
demonstrating the OCM process. LCT has a cold flow, hot flow and reactive setup
which provide new insights in different effects occurring at every stage of the
OCM process. In combination with modeling, valuable experimental studies can be
carried out for different operating conditions. Nevertheless, these time intensive
experimental studies can be drastically reduced by focusing on high level
computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations. These simulations will allow to
optimize the reactor geometry and operating conditions specifically for OCM and
to easily investigate alternative processes benefitting from this technology
such as biomass fast pyrolysis and gasification.

In this project, both reactive and non-reactive CFD
simulations of the GSVR-SG are performed using the open-source CFD package
OpenFOAM. The developed reactive CFD model takes into account a detailed OCM
microkinetic model consisting of both homogeneous and heterogeneous reactions.
The simulations are validated against the results obtained on the three
experimental setups available at the LCT.

 

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