Project No: FC26-05NT42469
Performer: Eltron Research & Development Inc.


Jenny Tennant
Technology Manager
National Energy Technology Laboratory
3610 Collins Ferry Road
P.O. Box 880, MS B17
Morgantown, WV 26507-0880
(304) 285-4830

Vito Cedro III
Project Manager
National Energy Technology Laboratory
626 Cochrans Mill Road
P.O. Box 10940
Pittsburgh, PA 15236-0940
(412) 386-7406

Steve Beck
Principal Investigator 
Eltron Research Inc.
4600 Nautilus Court South
Boulder, CO 80301-3241
(303) 530-0263

Award Date:  10/01/2005
Project Date:  06/30/2014

DOE Share: $22,060,054.00
Performer Share: $3,146,942.00
Total Award Value: $25,206,996.00

Performer website: Eltron Research & Development Inc. -

Advanced Energy Systems - Gasification Systems

Recovery Act: Scale-Up of Hydrogen Transport Membranes for IGCC and FutureGen Plants

Project Description

Eltron hydrogen transport membrane (HTM) technology uses composite metal alloy materials for separating hydrogen (H2) at practical rates from coal-derived synthesis gas (syngas), which is a mixture of H2, carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), and steam. Carbon dioxide on the feed side of the membrane remains at high pressure and in a concentrated form suitable for capture and re-use or storage. The Eltron HTM system is an enabling module for the production of high purity H2 and the capture of CO2 at high pressure, which is applicable to future integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) and central station H2 production plants. These novel membranes have an operating temperature of 280 to 440 degrees Celsius (°C), which is well-matched with emerging coal gas cleaning technologies and can significantly improve the overall efficiency and process economics for future gasification-based power, fuels, and chemical production plants. Eltron’s membranes can withstand high differential pressures of up to 1,000 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) without structural failure, allowing for successful integration into advanced high-pressure coal gasification plants.

Hydrogen Transport Membrane Technology Schematic
Hydrogen Transport Membrane Technology Schematic

Program Background and Project Benefits

Gasification is used to convert a solid feedstock, such as coal, petcoke, or biomass, into a gaseous form, referred to as synthesis gas or syngas, which is primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide. With gasification-based technologies, pollutants can be captured and disposed of or converted to useful products. Gasification can generate clean power by adding steam to the syngas in a water-gas-shift reactor to convert the carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide (CO2) and to produce additional hydrogen. The hydrogen and CO2 are separated—the hydrogen is used to make power and the CO2 is sent to storage, converted to useful products or used for EOR. In addition to efficiently producing electric power, a wide range of transportation fuels and chemicals can be produced from the cleaned syngas, thereby providing the flexibility needed to capitalize on the changing economic market. As a result, gasification provides a flexible technology option for using domestically available resources while meeting future environmental emission standards. Polygeneration plants that produce multiple products are uniquely possible with gasification technologies. The Gasification Systems program is developing technologies in three key areas to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of producing syngas: (1) Feed Systems, (2) Gasifier Optimization and Plant Supporting Systems, and (3) Syngas Processing Systems.

Syngas processing research and development underway emphasizes technologies that can be efficiently integrated into the plant, optimized with the temperature and pressure requirements of other systems, and meet product delivery specifications. A major cost element in gasification plants is converting raw syngas into a pure and specific gas used to create the plant's target product suite. High-hydrogen, low-methane, ultraclean syngas is versatile and can be used for power production with CO2 capture, fuels or chemicals production, and for many polygeneration applications. The technologies being developed are focused on high-efficiency processes that operate at moderate to high temperatures and clean syngas of all contaminants to the extremely low levels needed for chemical production—often significantly lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required levels for power plants.

Eltron Research and Development, Inc. is developing a hydrogen transport membrane (HTM) system for hydrogen separation and CO2 capture from shifted synthesis gas by designing and testing a pre-commercial module HTM system, with results to be used to update process models and for techno-economic analysis. Specifically, the project targets improvements in membrane characteristics, including higher permeability, higher selectivity, and lower membrane cost. Increased efficiency and directly resulting cost reductions come by operating the transport membranes at higher temperature (in combination with warm gas cleanup technology being developed).

Project Scope and Technology Readiness Level

The project will develop and scale up the HTM technology to cost-effectively separate H2 from shifted coal-derived syngas at practical rates and retain CO2 at high pressure, up to 1,000 psig, to minimize capital and compression costs for carbon capture and storage (CCS) applications. The HTMs are capable of producing pure H2 at temperatures that approach commercial water gas shift (WGS) reaction conditions, thus allowing process intensification via integrated reaction-separation system, with the potential to significantly improve the cost and efficiency of relevant industrial applications. The project will ready the HTM technology for early commercial deployment by accelerating the construction and test schedule of a 250-lbs/day process development unit (PDU) scale H2 separation module and, in parallel, continue activities for a 4- to 10-ton/day pre-commercial module (PCM). These efforts will significantly accelerate the design, construction, and operation of the prototype PCM and provide a head start on analyses of cost, performance, and engineering data for future integrated clean energy systems, as well as accelerating the transfer of an enabling technology to the manufacturing sector. The project scope includes the site selection, design, construction, and operation of a nominally 4 to 10 ton/day pre-commercial module H2 separation membrane system.

The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) assessment identifies the current state of readiness of the key technologies being developed under the DOE’s Clean Coal Research Program. In FY 12, this project was assessed a TRL of 4.

The TRL assessment process and its results including definition and description of the levels may be found in the "2012 Technology Readiness Assessment-Analysis of Active Research Portfolio".