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DOE Hydrogen Program
FY 2005 Progress Report
IV.D Biomass Reforming
David Lynch (Primary Contact), Ralph Dechiaro, Karl Hale Startech Environmental Corporation 190 Century Drive Bristol, CT 06010
Phone: (860) 582-6190; Fax: (860) 582-6340; E-mail:
DOE Technology Development Manager: Mark Paster Phone: (202) 586-2821; Fax: (202) 586-9811; E-mail:
DOE Project Officer: Jill Gruber Phone: (303) 275-4961; Fax: (303) 275-4753; E-mail:
Contract Number: DE-FC36-04GO14233
Start Date: October 04, 2004 Projected End Date: October 4, 2005
*Congressionally directed project....



The research done to date on this project has shown advancements in many technical areas in support of large-scale hydrogen production. Hydrogen-rich synthesis gas was produced from waste material on a commercial scale. This is significant as municipal solid waste was heretofore not even considered as a potential large-scale source of hydrogen. Furthermore, the PCS has the potential for application not only to waste materials, but also to abundant biomass feedstocks that are not amenable to gasification by other methods for various reasons. The results of this testing also showed that the gas produced in a PCS from municipal solid waste was very clean with 46%–55% hydrogen content before WGS. The gas produced was suitable for many applications including subsequent purification through carbon molecular sieve membranes.
The membrane data obtained during this testing was also very significant. The membranes used were actual commercial scale membrane bundles (referred to as modules) in this testing. Also, actual gasification gas was used from a non-fossil source as the feedstock for these membranes rather that clean natural gas. No sweep gases or other process aides were used that would improve performance statistics while decreasing the practical use of the gas. Even under these conditions, the StarCellTM system demonstrated gas purification from a 50% concentration to 96% purity and showed hydrogen recovery rates in excess of 86%.
Now that the performance baseline has been set for both the PCS and the StarCellTM Hydrogen purification system, next-step improvements can be made to both technologies. A significant area for improvement on the StarCellTM system is to increase the temperature capabilities to be more representative of high temperature applications. Higher separation temperatures will significantly improve membrane performance because flux is a logarithmic function of temperature. Higher temperature is also known to increase poison resistance of the membranes. Other StarCellTM research may include different types of membranes, counter-current gas flows, or the incorporation of WGS directly into the membrane module. The PCS used in this testing was designed for destruction of hazardous waste materials rather than low-cost synthesis gas generation. Changes to the PCS relative to hydrogen production should focus on three areas: reducing even the trace quantities of sulfur species that are known to poison various catalysts used in WGS systems, reducing the amount nitrogen in the gas produced, and improving the energy efficiency of the torch system used to produce the plasma.