Among the pathways for decarbonization, our expertise makes us believe to focus on hydrogen to convert fossils fuels and to sequester the carbon dioxide before its emission in the atmosphere. The team has been working in this field (now called blue hydrogen) for several years. Prof. D. Barba ideated an open-architecture of steam reforming, integrated with membrane separation modules. In 2011 he coordinated the “Hydrogen Pilot Plant Project” (funded by MIUR for 12 M€). The Multi-Stage Reforming with Membrane Modules has been demonstrated in an industrial environment; the pilot plant comprises two-step reformers, working at 550–650 ◦C, and two membrane modules at 450 ◦C, as was built by Tecnimont-KT in Chieti (Italy) and the plant operability has been tested at 20Nm3/h for thousands of hours. Basically this “open and modular” architecture (named RMM in some papers) is able to increase the conversions beyond those of equilibrium and is able to overcome some kinetic and operability issues of the membrane reactors.
From this experience we ideated a simpler and more compact architecture to produce hydrogen-rich streams and to separate the CO2 in the pre-combustion stage and to dramatically improve any previous solutions in terms of cost, compactness and flexibility. The novel process is called Multi-stage Oxidation Reforming (MSOR) technology and is at the basis of a cluster of solutions In synthesis, preliminary and external combustion of a feed portion has the main advantages of enhancing the exergetic efficiency of the process and simplifying the process configuration by minimizing the heat recovery section and by realizing a very flexible process with independent process parameters to vary in relation to the objective. All the cited advantages reduce the complexity and the investment cost of the reforming apparatus; there is no longer a need for a furnace with a series of parallel tubular reactors. Main fields of application are:
- carbon-free electricity production (a.e. NGCC with Pre-combustion capture)
- maritime transport (conceptual design of LNG-to-Hydrogen for large-scale shipping)
- pure hydrogen or enriched methane production (with carbon capture)
- electricity/hydrogen switchable production
- decarbonization of industrial sectors (in particular Steelmaking and Oil & Refinery sectors)