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Hydrogen Fuels

Thermal Plasma Process for Producing Hydrogen Fuel from Methane

We are performing research and development work on a plasma thermal process for producing hydrogen from methane. The process will produce solid carbon as a by-product. The reaction proceeds via the overall reaction equation:

CH4    2H2 + C(s)

where C(s) is the solid phase of carbon.

Thermal plasma technology can produce extremely high heating and cooling rates. The ability to achieve these high rates is crucial to the success of direct thermal conversion concepts. The process optimizes the production of hydrogen and solid carbon by controlling the pressure, temperature, gas mixture, residence time, and cooling rate. High cooling rates freeze the composition, inhibiting back reactions and helping to control the size and morphology of the solid carbon produced. Using methane as the feed stock, the solid phase carbon produced is high quality, with the value highly dependent on the size distribution, phase, and purity. The process design can be tailored to maximize the value of the carbon produced, thus improving the overall process economics. A sketch showing a possible system configuration is shown below.

Potential applications include transportation, distributed electric power systems, industrial hydrogen generation, or other new commercial applications. Preliminary economic analysis indicates that the process can be economically competitive with minimal values assumed for the solid carbon byproduct.

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Department of energy

DOE Office of Nuclear Energy
DOE-Idaho Office