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Research Papers: Hydrogen Energy

Solar Hydrogen Production Integrating Low-Grade Solar Thermal Energy and Methanol Steam Reforming

[+] Author and Article Information
Hui Hong

Institute of Engineering Thermophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 2706, Beijing 100080, P. R. C.

Qibin Liu

Institute of Engineering Thermophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 2706, Beijing 100080, P. R. C.; Graduate School, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 2706, Beijing 100080, P. R. C.

Hongguang Jin1

Institute of Engineering Thermophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 2706, Beijing 100080, P. R. C.hgjin@mail.etp.ac.cn

1

Corresponding author.

J. Energy Resour. Technol 131(1), 012601 (Feb 05, 2009) (10 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3068336 History: Received September 13, 2007; Revised June 13, 2008; Published February 05, 2009

In this paper, a novel approach of middle-temperature solar hydrogen production using methanol steam reforming is proposed. It can be carried out at around 200300°C, much lower than the temperatures of other solar thermochemical hydrogen production. For the realization of the proposed solar hydrogen production, solar experiments are investigated in a modified 5 kW solar receiver/reactor with one-tracking parabolic trough concentrators. The feature of significantly upgrading the energy level from lower-grade solar thermal energy to higher-grade chemical energy is experimentally identified. The interaction between the hydrogen yield and the energy-level upgrade of solar thermal energy is clarified. Also, this kind of solar hydrogen production is experimentally compared with methanol decomposition. The preliminarily economic evaluation of the hydrogen production is identified. As a result, in the solar-driven steam reforming, the thermochemical efficiency of solar thermal energy converted into chemical energy reached up to 40–50% under a mean solar flux of 550700W/m2, and exceeding 90% of hydrogen production is achieved, with about 70% higher than that of methanol decomposition. The thermochemical performance of solar-driven methanol steam reforming experimentally examined at around 200300°C for hydrogen production may be competitive with conventional methane reforming. The promising results obtained here indicate that the proposed solar hydrogen production may provide the possibility of a synergetic process of both high production of hydrogen and effective utilization of solar thermal energy at around 200300°C.

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Figure 1

New approach to solar hydrogen production using methanol steam reforming

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Figure 2

Photo of the modified 5 kW solar receiver/reactor prototype

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Figure 3

Configuration of tubular bed reactor

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Figure 4

(a) Experimental variation in methanol conversion and reactor average temperature with mean solar flux, (b) typical plots of temperature distribution along the reactor, and (c) experimental results of concentrations of gas products with mean solar flux

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Figure 5

Thermochemical efficiency of solar thermal energy converted into chemical energy with mean solar flux

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Figure 6

Upgrade ratio of the energy level of solar thermal energy with different mole ratios of water/methanol

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Figure 7

Relationship between hydrogen yield and upgrade of the energy level of solar thermal energy

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Figure 8

(a) Comparison of hydrogen concentrations from methanol steam reforming and methanol decomposition with mean solar flux and (b) comparison of hydrogen yield from methanol steam reforming and methanol decomposition with solar thermal energy inputs

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Figure 9

Comparison of hydrogen cost of the conventional NG reforming process and of the solar methanol reforming process

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