Project No: FE0004895
Performer: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Jenny Tennant
Gasification Systems Technology 
National Energy Technology Laboratory 
3610 Collins Ferry Road 
P.O. Box 880 
Morgantown, WV 26507-0880 

Darryl Shockley
Project Manager 
National Energy Technology Laboratory 
3610 Collins Ferry Road 
P.O. Box 880 M.S. P03D 
Morgantown, WV 26507-0880 

Yi (Ed) Hua Ma
Principal Investigator
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
100 Institute Road
Worcester, MA 01609 

Award Date:  10/01/2010
Project Date:  09/30/2015

DOE Share: $6,004,678.00
Performer Share: $1,501,799.00
Total Award Value: $7,506,477.00

Performer website: Worcester Polytechnic Institute -

Advanced Energy Systems - Gasification Systems

Engineering Design of Advanced H2 CO2 PD and PD/Alloy Composite Membrane Separations and Process Intensification

Project Description

Worcester Polytechnic Institute will demonstrate hydrogen separation from coal-derived syngas using palladium (Pd) and Pd alloy membranes on porous metal supports.

The goal of the project is to carry out a comprehensive engineering design for advanced hydrogen-carbon dioxide (H2-CO2) Pd and Pd-alloy composite membrane separations with process intensification technologies that reduce the number of unit operations required for H2 production from a coal (coal-biomass)-based syngas.

Setup for testing pre-engineering/pilot scale membranes. Source: WPI

Setup for testing pre-engineering/pilot scale membranes. Source: WPI 

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 WGS 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 enhanced oil recovery. 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.

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute hydrogen transport membrane (HTM) project targets improvements in H2-CO2 separation membrane characteristics, including higher permeability, higher selectivity, and lower membrane cost. Specifically, the project will include R&D in improved membrane design, leading to the demonstration testing of the process at the pre-engineering/pilot scale of 2 lbs/day of H2. 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). HTM technology will be versatile, applicable to both integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) with over 90% carbon capture, and having the ability to make chemical grade H2 for liquid fuel, chemicals synthesis, and polygeneration applications.

This project is a follow-up effort to Composite Palladium and Palladium-Alloy Porous Stainless Steel Membranes for Hydrogen Production and Process Intensification, an earlier NETL-sponsored investigation by Worcester Polytechnic Institute.