Summary
Steam reforming or steam methane reforming (SMR) is a method for producing syngas (hydrogen and carbon monoxide) by reaction of hydrocarbons with water. Commonly natural gas is the feedstock. The main purpose of this technology is hydrogen production. The reaction is represented by this equilibrium: CH4 + H2O CO + 3 H2 The reaction is strongly endothermic (ΔHSR = 206 kJ/mol). Hydrogen produced by steam reforming is termed 'grey hydrogen' when the waste carbon monoxide is released to the atmosphere and 'blue hydrogen' when the carbon monoxide is (mostly) captured and stored geologically - see carbon capture and storage. Zero carbon 'green' hydrogen is produced by thermochemical water splitting, using solar thermal, low- or zero-carbon electricity or waste heat, or electrolysis, using low- or zero-carbon electricity. Zero carbon emissions 'turquoise' hydrogen is produced by one-step methane pyrolysis of natural gas. Steam reforming of natural gas produces most of the world's hydrogen. Hydrogen is used in the industrial synthesis of ammonia and other chemicals. Steam reforming reaction kinetics, in particular using nickel-alumina catalysts, have been studied in detail since the 1950s. The purpose of pre-reforming is to break down higher hydrocarbons such as propane, butane or naphtha into methane (CH4), which allows for more efficient reforming downstream. The name-giving reaction is the steam reforming (SR) reaction and is expressed by the equation: Via the water-gas shift reaction (WGSR), additional hydrogen is released by reaction of water with the carbon monoxide generated according to equation [1]: Some additional reactions occurring within steam reforming processes have been studied. Commonly the direct steam reforming (DSR) reaction is also included: As these reactions by themselves are highly endothermic (apart from WGSR, which is mildly exothermic), a large amount of heat needs to be added to the reactor to keep a constant temperature. Optimal SMR reactor operating conditions lie within a temperature range of 800 °C to 900 °C at medium pressures of 20-30 bar.
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