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Conversion of Methane to Hydrogen and Synthesis Gas Using Bimetallic Oxygen Carriers

Date Posted
USPN 10,513,436


Research is active on the development of regenerable bimetallic oxygen carriers for use in methane conversion to hydrogen combined with chemical looping combustion systems. This invention is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.


Hydrogen (H2) produced from methane has garnered significant interest recently due to its environmental friendliness, abundance, and the wide range of commercial applications it can be used for. On a per unit weight basis, the amount of energy produced during H2 combustion is higher than any other fuels.

Current commercial H2 production is based on methods like steam methane reforming, coal or biomass gasification, electrolysis, and thermochemical process. Energy efficiency and H2 price data indicate that methane steam reforming, methane partial oxidation, and coal gasification are currently the most cost effective techniques for H2 production. However, these techniques generate large quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) and require additional processing steps that include a water-gas shift reactor for converting carbon monoxide to H2 and CO2, followed by a CO2 separation step to produce a pure stream of H2. In addition, most of the reactions involved in H2 production (e.g., methane steam reforming) are endothermic and heat must be provided for the reaction. Traditionally, methane has to be combusted in air to provide heat for the reaction, which creates additional CO2 that must be separated prior to storage.

This invention describes a new method to produce pure H2 from methane by combining two processes: methane chemical looping process (CLC) for production of heat using a copper oxide-ferric oxide oxygen carrier and the production of H2 from methane decomposition using the reduced copper oxide-ferric oxide oxygen carrier and the heat from the CLC process. In addition, carbon formed from the methane decomposition process can be used directly or can be converted to synthesis gas using steam gasification. This method is capable of producing pure H2 with a storage ready CO2 stream. 

  • Process allows for the production of pure H2 derived from methane and synthesis gas with no CO2 emissions
  • Bimetallic oxygen carriers demonstrate high stability and H2 conversion efficiency over multiple oxidation/reduction cycles
  • Reduced oxygen carrier serves as the catalyst for methane decomposition to produce H2
  • Heat for the methane decomposition process is supplied by the methane CLC process with the same oxygen carrier
  • Additional processing steps to separate H2 from the gas stream are not required (e.g., the water-gas shift reaction for the conversion of carbon monoxide to CO2 followed by H2 separation is not required)
  • Resulting H2 produced form these processes is suitable for production of useful chemicals
  • Processes can be applied to other hydrocarbons

Any application that involves the conversion of methane to H2 or synthesis gas. The resulting gasses can be used as feedstocks for conversion to commercial products such as methanol, ammonia, dimethyl ether, and liquid fuels

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