Research Papers: Energy Systems Analysis

Integration of an Electrolysis Unit for Producer Gas Conditioning in a Bio-Synthetic Natural Gas Plant

[+] Author and Article Information
Sennai Mesfun

Ecosystems Services and Management Program,
International Institute for Applied Systems
Analysis (IIASA),
Schlossplatz 1,
Laxenburg A-2361, Austria
e-mail: mesfun@iiasa.ac.at

Joakim Lundgren

Energy Engineering, Division of Energy Science,
Luleå University of Technology,
Luleå SE-971 87, Sweden
e-mail: joakim.lundgren@ltu.se

Andrea Toffolo

Energy Engineering, Division of Energy Science,
Luleå University of Technology,
Luleå SE-971 87, Sweden
e-mail: andrea.toffolo@ltu.se

Göran Lindbergh

School of Chemical Science and Engineering,
Teknikringen 42,
Stockholm SE-100 44, Sweden
e-mail: gnli@kth.se

Carina Lagergren

School of Chemical Science and Engineering,
Teknikringen 42,
Stockholm SE-100 44, Sweden
e-mail: carinal@kth.se

Klas Engvall

School of Chemical Science and Engineering,
Teknikringen 42,
Stockholm SE-100 44, Sweden
e-mail: kengvall@kth.se

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESOURCES TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received December 28, 2017; final manuscript received July 18, 2018; published online August 9, 2018. Assoc. Editor: Asfaw Beyene.

J. Energy Resour. Technol 141(1), 012002 (Aug 09, 2018) (12 pages) Paper No: JERT-17-1741; doi: 10.1115/1.4040942 History: Received December 28, 2017; Revised July 18, 2018

Producer gas from biomass gasification contains impurities like tars, particles, alkali salts, and sulfur/nitrogen compounds. As a result, a number of process steps are required to condition the producer gas before utilization as a syngas and further upgrading to final chemicals and fuels. Here, we study the concept of using molten carbonate electrolysis cells (MCEC) both to clean and to condition the composition of a raw syngas stream, from biomass gasification, for further upgrading into synthetic natural gas (SNG). A mathematical MCEC model is used to analyze the impact of operational parameters, such as current density, pressure and temperature, on the quality and amount of syngas produced. Internal rate of return (IRR) is evaluated as an economic indicator of the processes considered. Results indicate that, depending on process configuration, the production of SNG can be boosted by approximately 50–60% without the need of an additional carbon source, i.e., for the same biomass input as in standalone operation of the GoBiGas plant.

Copyright © 2019 by ASME
Your Session has timed out. Please sign back in to continue.


IEA, 2013, “ Secure and Efficient Electricity Supply,” International Energy Agency, Paris, France.
Koytsoumpa, E.-I. , Bergins, C. , Buddenberg, T. , Wu, S. , Sigurbjörnsson, Ó. , Tran, K. C. , and Kakaras, E. , 2016, “ The Challenge of Energy Storage in Europe: Focus on Power to Fuel,” ASME J. Energy Resour. Technol., 138(4), p. 042002.
Mesfun, S. , Sanchez, D. L. , Leduc, S. , Wetterlund, E. , Lundgren, J. , Biberacher, M. , and Kraxner, F. , 2017, “ Power-to-Gas and Power-to-Liquid for Managing Renewable Electricity Intermittency in the Alpine Region,” Renewable Energy, 107, pp. 361–372. [CrossRef]
Chen, L. , Chen, F. , and Xia, C. , 2014, “ Direct Synthesis of Methane From CO2–H2O Co-Electrolysis in Tubular Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cells,” Energy Environ. Sci., 7(12), pp. 4018–4022. [CrossRef]
Gaudillere, C. , Navarrete, L. , and Serra, J. M. , 2014, “ Syngas Production at Intermediate Temperature Through H2O and CO2 Electrolysis With a Cu-Based Solid Oxide Electrolyzer Cell,” Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 39(7), pp. 3047–3054. [CrossRef]
Giglio, E. , Lanzini, A. , Santarelli, M. , and Leone, P. , 2015, “ Synthetic Natural Gas Via Integrated High-Temperature Electrolysis and Methanation—Part I: Energy Performance,” J. Energy Storage, 1, pp. 22–37. [CrossRef]
Graves, C. , Ebbesen, S. D. , and Mogensen, M. , 2011, “ Co-Electrolysis of CO2 and H2O in Solid Oxide Cells: Performance and Durability,” Solid State Ionics, 192(1), pp. 398–403. [CrossRef]
Javad Kasaei, M. , Gandomkar, M. , and Nikoukar, J. , 2017, “ Optimal Operational Scheduling of Renewable Energy Sources Using Teaching–Learning Based Optimization Algorithm by Virtual Power Plant,” ASME J. Energy Resour. Technol., 139(6), p. 062003.
Hulteberg, P. C. , and Karlsson, H. T. , 2009, “ A Study of Combined Biomass Gasification and Electrolysis for Hydrogen Production,” Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 34(2), pp. 772–782. [CrossRef]
Clausen, L. R. , Houbak, N. , and Elmegaard, B. , 2010, “ Technoeconomic Analysis of a Methanol Plant Based on Gasification of Biomass and Electrolysis of Water,” Energy, 35(5), pp. 2338–2347. [CrossRef]
McKellar, M. G. , O'Brien, J. E. , Stoots, C. M. , and Hawkes, G. L. , 2007, “ Process Model for the Production of Syngas Via High Temperature Co-Electrolysis,” ASME, 6, pp. 691–699.
McKellar, M. G. , Hawkes, G. L. , and O'Brien, J. E. , 2008, “ The Production of Syngas Via High Temperature Electrolysis and Biomass Gasification,” ASME Paper No. IMECE2008-68900.
Dean, J. , Braun, R. , Penev, M. , Kinchin, C. , and Muñoz, D. , 2011, “ Leveling Intermittent Renewable Energy Production Through Biomass Gasification-Based Hybrid Systems,” ASME J. Energy Resour. Technol., 133(3), p. 031801.
Tanaka, Y. , Mesfun, S. , Umeki, K. , Toffolo, A. , Tamaura, Y. , and Yoshikawa, K. , 2015, “ Thermodynamic Performance of a Hybrid Power Generation System Using Biomass Gasification and Concentrated Solar Thermal Processes,” Appl. Energy, 160, pp. 664–672. [CrossRef]
El-Emam, R. S. , and Dincer, I. , 2016, “ Assessment and Evolutionary Based Multi-Objective Optimization of a Novel Renewable-Based Polygeneration Energy System,” ASME J. Energy Resour. Technol., 139(1), p. 012003.
Sadeghi, S. , and Ameri, M. , 2014, “ Exergy Analysis of Photovoltaic Panels-Coupled Solid Oxide Fuel Cell and Gas Turbine-Electrolyzer Hybrid System,” ASME J. Energy Resour. Technol., 136(3), p. 031201.
Hu, L. , Lindbergh, G. , and Lagergren, C. , 2016, “ Performance and Durability of the Molten Carbonate Electrolysis Cell and the Reversible Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell,” J. Phys. Chem. C, 120(25), pp. 13427–13433. [CrossRef]
Di Giulio, N. , Bosio, B. , Cigolotti, V. , and Nam, S. W. , 2012, “ Experimental and Theoretical Analysis of H2S Effects on MCFCs,” Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 37(24), pp. 19329–19336. [CrossRef]
Alamia, A. , Larsson, A. , Breitholtz, C. , and Thunman, H. , 2017, “ Performance of Large-Scale Biomass Gasifiers in a Biorefinery, a State-of-the-Art Reference,” Int. J. Energy Res., 41(14), pp. 2001–2019. [CrossRef]
Clarke, S. H. , Dicks, A. L. , Pointon, K. , Smith, T. A. , and Swann, A. , 1997, “ Catalytic Aspects of the Steam Reforming of Hydrocarbons in Internal Reforming Fuel Cells,” Catal Today, 38(4), pp. 411–423. [CrossRef]
Kowalik, P. , Antoniak-Jurak, K. , Błesznowski, M. , Herrera, M. C. , Larrubia, M. A. , Alemany, L. J. , and Pieta, I. S. , 2015, “ Biofuel Steam Reforming Catalyst for Fuel Cell Application,” Catal Today, 254, pp. 129–134. [CrossRef]
Stoots, C. M. , O'Brien, J. E. , Herring, J. S. , and Hartvigsen, J. J. , 2009, “ Syngas Production Via High-Temperature Coelectrolysis of Steam and Carbon Dioxide,” ASME J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol., 6(1), p. 011014. [CrossRef]
Zarzycki, R. , and Panowski, M. , 2017, “ Analysis of the Flue Gas Preparation Process for the Purposes of Carbon Dioxide Separation Using the Adsorption Methods,” ASME J. Energy Resour. Technol., 140(3), p. 032008.
Hu, L. , Rexed, I. , Lindbergh, G. , and Lagergren, C. , 2014, “ Electrochemical Performance of Reversible Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells,” Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 39(23), pp. 12323–12329. [CrossRef]
Hu, L. , Lindbergh, G. , and Lagergren, C. , 2016, “ Operating the Nickel Electrode With Hydrogen-Lean Gases in the Molten Carbonate Electrolysis Cell (MCEC),” Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 41(41), pp. 18692–18698. [CrossRef]
Li, X. T. , Grace, J. R. , Lim, C. J. , Watkinson, A. P. , Chen, H. P. , and Kim, J. R. , 2004, “ Biomass Gasification in a Circulating Fluidized Bed,” Biomass Bioenergy, 26(2), pp. 171–193. [CrossRef]
Mesfun, S. , and Toffolo, A. , 2015, “ Integrating the Processes of a Kraft Pulp and Paper Mill and Its Supply Chain,” Energy Convers. Manage., 103, pp. 300–310. [CrossRef]
Lazzaretto, A. , and Toffolo, A. , 2008, “ A Method to Separate the Problem of Heat Transfer Interactions in the Synthesis of Thermal Systems,” Energy, 33(2), pp. 163–170. [CrossRef]
Kemp, C.-I. , 2007, Pinch Analysis and Process Integration: A User Guide on Process Integration for the Efficient Use of Energy, 2nd ed., Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, UK.
Alamia, A. , Thunman, H. , and Seemann, M. , 2016, “ Process Simulation of Dual Fluidized Bed Gasifiers Using Experimental Data,” Energy Fuels, 30(5), pp. 4017–4033. [CrossRef]
Andersson, J. , Lundgren, J. , and Marklund, M. , 2014, “ Methanol Production Via Pressurized Entrained Flow Biomass Gasification —Techno-Economic Comparison of Integrated Vs. Stand-Alone Production,” Biomass Bioenergy, 64, pp. 256–268. [CrossRef]
Zhang, W. , He, J. , Engstrand, P. , and Björkqvist, O. , 2015, “ Economic Evaluation on Bio-Synthetic Natural Gas Production Integrated in a Thermomechanical Pulp Mill,” Energies, 8(11), pp. 12795–12809. [CrossRef]
Della Pietra, M. , McPhail, S. J. , Prabhakar, S. , Desideri, U. , Nam, S. W. , and Cigolotti, V. , 2016, “ Accelerated Test for MCFC Button Cells: First Findings,” Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 41(41), pp. 18807–18814. [CrossRef]
Heyne, S. , and Harvey, S. , 2014, “ Impact of Choice of CO2 Separation Technology on Thermo-Economic Performance of Bio-SNG Production Processes,” Int. J. Energy Res., 38, pp. 299–318.
Mesfun, S. , Anderson, J.-O. , Umeki, K. , and Toffolo, A. , 2016, “ Integrated SNG Production in a Typical Nordic Sawmill,” Energies, 9(5), p. 333. [CrossRef]


Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Schematics of the actual GoBiGas configuration (via the processes inside the dotted-box) and with an integrated conceptual MCEC process (via the processes inside the dashed-box)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

System boundaries for energy performance analysis

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Capital investment and share of subprocesses under different configurations

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Cathode outlet gas composition as function of MCEC operating temperature at 1.013 bar (a) and MCEC operating pressure at 650 °C (b)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Integrated grand composite curve for the reference scenario I

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Integrated grand composite curve for scenarios without internal reforming scenario II (a) and scenario III (b)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 7

Integrated grand composite curve for scenarios with internal reforming scenario IV (a) and scenario V (b)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 8

Internal rate of return as function RE cost with (a) and without (b) incentive for DH

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 9

Sensitivity of the IRR to biomass, RE and NG price (negative IRR values grayed-out on the heatmap)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 10

Sensitivity of the IRR to biomass, RE and NG price at 50% higher investment (negative IRR values grayed-out on the heatmap)



Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging and repositioning the boxes below.

Related Journal Articles
Related eBook Content
Topic Collections

Sorry! You do not have access to this content. For assistance or to subscribe, please contact us:

  • TELEPHONE: 1-800-843-2763 (Toll-free in the USA)
  • EMAIL: asmedigitalcollection@asme.org
Sign In