Project No: FE0012054
Performer: Southern Research Institute (SRI)


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

Darryl Shockley
Project Manager
National Energy Technology Laboratory
3610 Collins Ferry Road
P.O. Box 880, MS P03A
Morgantown, WV 26507-0880
(304) 285-4697

Andrew Lucero
Principal Investigator
Southern Research Institute
Durham, NC.

Award Date:  10/01/2013
Project Date:  03/30/2015

DOE Share: $931,825.00
Performer Share: $282,000.00
Total Award Value: $1,213,825.00

Performer website: Southern Research Institute (SRI) -

Advanced Energy Systems - Gasification Systems

High Hydrogen, Low Methane Syngas From Low Rank Coals for Coal-to-Liquids Production.

Project Description

This Southern Research Institute project will design, build, and test a novel steam reforming catalyst for converting tars and methane under high temperature and sulfur environments to increase the H2:CO ratio of a surrogate low-rank coal syngas. This will be performed at a lab-scale. This work is intended to demonstrate the potential commercial viability of catalytic steam reforming under severe contaminant environments to produce a cost-effective high H2 syngas from low-rank coals.

Program Background and Project Benefits

Southern Research will design and analyze a modified, advanced gasification platform for the conversion of low-rank coals to syngas for coal-to-liquid and gasification combined cycle applications. Specifically, this will involve development, testing and optimization of steam-reforming catalysts for converting tars, C2+ hydrocarbons, NH3, and CH4 in high-temperature and sulfur environments, typical of syngas from low-rank coal gasification. Improved catalysts would increase the H2:CO ratio of the syngas and reduce down-stream fouling costs and efficiency losses, which would support the commercialization of a high-temperature, sulfur-tolerant steam reforming catalytic process to reduce the cost of coal-based gasification cleanup, reduce carbon emissions and increase the efficiency of low-rank coal gasification for production of electricity and coal-to-liquids.

Project Scope and Technology Readiness Level

This project addresses the DOE/NETL initiative to advance the area of gasification systems technology to meet and exceed the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s criteria for reducing emissions. Research will be performed at the laboratory scale using simulated low-rank coal syngas that contains methane and ammonia as well as a tar surrogate, benzene, toluene, and xylene (BTX), to test the conversion efficiency and catalyst longevity. The supports and synthesis techniques used will be limited to ones that have the potential for scalability and commercial viability in the near term (i.e., by 2020). Initial testing will be performed to screen different metal-support combinations for their BTX and methane steam reforming productivity under a hydrogen sulfide-free simulated, low-rank coal gasification environment. Catalyst characterization will be carried out throughout these studies and be used to better understand the surface phenomena and to design potentially enhanced formulations at the end of the catalyst screening. A parametric statistically designed experimental study will be used to investigate and optimize the top performing screened catalysts at or near industrially-relevant gasification conditions.

The optimum condition and formulation will then be used to study the long-term deactivation behavior of the catalyst under the near-raw syngas of three industrially relevant gasification technologies: TRIG (Transport Reactor Integrated Gasifier), TRI (ThermoChem Recovery International, Inc.), and Lurgi’s FBDB (Fixed-Bed Dry-Bottom) technologies. The data collected during this project will also be relevant to other gasification technologies. The catalytic performance will be benchmarked with current tar reforming and steam reforming catalysts.

After the initial catalysts are screened, a techno-economic analysis (TEA) will be performed in parallel to the optimization of the catalytic performance studies using AspenONE™ software to model the mass and energy balances of the commercial embodiment. This model will include all the unit operations necessary to convert coal into Fischer-Tropsch distillate fuels, including the steam reformer, catalytic partial oxidation, and carbon capture. The economic feasibility of the integrated process, including the catalytic steam reforming process, in a commercial embodiment will be determined. Additionally, a sensitivity analysis will identify potential barriers and areas for improvement for future process scale-up. These results will be compared with results from traditional water-gas shift technologies for production of liquid fuels from coal, to determine whether the additional heat inputs and catalyst deactivation for catalytic steam reforming will offset the rejection of the CO2 from water-gas shift.

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. This project has not been assessed.

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".