UCFER Third Round of Solicitations

On November 15, 2017, UCFER released its third request for proposals (RFP) to its sixteen-member Coalition. The RFP closed on January 10, 2018. A total of 81 proposals were received and reviewed by the Technical Advisory Council, Core Competency Board, external reviewers, other Coalition faculty, and the Executive Council. Funding available for this round of proposals was $4.099 million and the total funding requested was $20.196 million. The chart on the following page summarizes the funding requested for each topic area.

Topics H-N funding amounts.

UCFER recommendations were provided to NETL for funding consideration. The following 11 projects were approved for funding:

Seed-Free MHD Topping Cycle for Coal and Gas Fired Power GenerationTexas A&M Engineering Experiment, 24-month project, $424,100

The United States relies heavily on hydrocarbon energy sources for the generation of electrical power. These include petroleum, coal, syngas and natural gas. In 2016, about 30 percent of electric power in the US was generated by coal and 34 percent by natural gas. The conversion to electrical power for those hydrocarbons involves a combustion process of producing a high temperature which drives a power generating thermodynamic cycle. Many factors affect the efficiency of the thermodynamic cycle, but fundamentally it is determined by the temperature difference between the high temperature produced from combustion and the relatively cool temperature of the environment. Materials that are required for the operation of conventional power plants limit the peak operational temperature to much lower than the highest temperatures available from the combustion, leading to a significant reduction in the operational efficiency of conventional electrical generation processes.

Those materials limitations can be avoided by expanding the high temperature, combustion product laden gas through a nozzle to achieve high velocity in a wind tunnel and extracting electrical power directly from that high velocity gas by separating positive and negative charges as they pass through a magnetic field, leading to current flow through an external load. This process is called magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) power generation. After losing some of its energy to the MHD power extraction, the gas is still hot, and it can be subsequently used to heat a conventional power generator. Thus, the MHD process is termed a “topping cycle” and adds to the power generated by the conventional “bottoming cycle” which increases the overall efficiency of the process and reduces the amount of hydrocarbon fuel needed to service the electrical demand.

For the MHD process to be successful, the combustion product gas must conduct electricity. To do so the gas must contain a significant concentration of electrons and ions. Conductivity only occurs when neutral molecules are heated to high enough temperatures to ionize. The hot combusting gases do not have enough conductivity to achieve significant power extraction, even from very hot combustion with pure oxygen. This means that some method for augmenting the conductivity is required. In “conventional” MHD, that is achieved by adding up to 5 percent of an easily ionized species like potassium. That requires both the addition and subsequent removal of the seed material, which adds great complexity and cost to the MHD operation. As the temperature of the flow cools, the conductivity drops, so very high temperatures also need to be sustained through the MHD power extraction channel to maintain conductivity.

This research partnership between Texas A&M University and Princeton University seeks to develop an MHD “topping cycle” that does not rely on seeding the combustion products with an easily ionized species. Sustaining conductivity by external methods has the advantage of removing the seeding requirement and potentially extending the operability of MHD to lower temperatures and higher flow speeds since the conductivity is no longer directly related to thermal ionization. The research will be conducted in close collaboration with NETL personnel and will examine the possibility of using high voltage, short duration pulses to ionize the gas. The pulses only last for a few nanoseconds, have high enough voltage to achieve efficient ionization, and are applied through dielectric barrier walls at repetition rates high enough to maintain effective average conductivity. The discharges are guided by the magnetic field, so ionization is confined to the core of the flow, minimizing wall losses.

The power required to create the conductivity must be a fraction of the power extracted from the MHD process to be viable. Both computational modeling and experiments are directed toward understanding the fundamental physics underlying externally sustained conductivity and optimizing a topping cycle concept to mesh successfully with existing power generation facilities.  The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Richard Miles.

Modular Chemical Functionalization of External Surfaces of Porous Metal-Organic Framework Filler Particles for Optimization of Interfacial Properties in Mixed Matrix MembranesUniversity of Pittsburgh, 18-month project, $168,855

Realization of a low-carbon future, while remaining reliant on fossil fuel-based energy generation, requires the development and optimization of materials that provide low-cost and energy efficient means of separating carbon dioxide (CO2) from post-combustion flue gas streams. Mixed-matrix membranes (MMMs), comprising a polymer matrix and embedded “filler” particles, are promising candidate materials for this task. Carefully designed porous metal-organic framework (MOF) “filler” particles can enhance the membrane’s CO2/N2 selectivity and CO2 permeability, allowing for high flux separation of CO2 from N2 and other post-combustion gases. However, if the polymer and particles are chemically incompatible, the resulting MMM may contain ‘pockets’ or void spaces between the particle and the polymer. These void spaces present non-selective pathways through which flue gas can permeate, reducing the selectivity of the membrane. To address and ultimately eliminate this problem, methods must be developed to control the polymer-particle interface, which can lead to optimization of MMM performance.

The proposed work aims to understand how the chemistry at the particle surface affects the polymer-particle interface and the properties and performance of the MMM. Straightforward, modular methods will be developed to attach various chemical moieties to the external surfaces of MOF particles. These methods will allow rapid differentiation of the MOF external surface with chemical moieties that can influence polymer-MOF interactions. Selection of chemical moieties will be informed through consultation and collaboration with NETL researchers and through computational screening. The “functionalized” MOF particles will then be used as “filler” particles for the fabrication of MMMs. Together with NETL partners, we will evaluate the thermal, mechanical, structural and gas separation performance properties of the MMMs. The goal is to build correlations between the chemical constitution at the surface of the MOF particles and the structure, properties and gas separation performance of the MMMs.

All proposed work will be conducted in close collaboration with NETL scientists. We anticipate that, by the end of the funding period, we will arrive at a clear understanding of how specific chemical moieties, or mixtures thereof, influence polymer-MOF interactions. Further, we will have generated a set of design rules that govern selection of chemical moieties to carefully tune the polymer-MOF interface. These intellectual outcomes will lead to optimal polymer-particle interfaces and improved membrane performance in terms of both CO2 permeability and selectivity. Beyond carbon capture and separation, the developed tools, materials and understanding will benefit such fields as the petrochemical and gas purification industries which will increasingly rely on sophisticated mixed-matrix membrane materials for chemical separations. The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Nathaniel Rosi.

Porous Polymer Network Membranes and Porous Molecular Additive for Post Combustion CO2 CaptureTexas A&M University, 18-month project, $203,000

A major component of the electricity generated in the United States comes from the combustion of such fossil fuels as coal, oil and natural gas. Fossil fuel combustion produces a flue gas mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen and trace corrosive pollutants. The separation and sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the other gases in effluent streams is of interest to industry and the greater public in the pursuit of cleaner energy production. A variety of physical and chemical processes for the separation of CO2 from flue gas has been extensively studied. One process of interest employs selective membrane filters to isolate CO2 from other gases. A membrane filter system is attractive due to its low energy consumption, simplicity, and ease of integration into existing fossil fuel fired power plants. Selective membranes have been studied for the separation of gases for several hundred years. Many types of selective membranes exist, from the early use of pig bladders to modern inorganic membranes that require advanced synthesis techniques. Single-component membranes often exhibit sufficient performance for industrial separations in certain regards, but often at the expense of other properties. An approach to producing membranes with adequate properties for real-world applications relies on combining different materials, each with discrete advantages.

Mixed Matrix Membranes (MMMs) are systems comprised of at least two distinct components designed to complement and enhance the desired properties. MMMs usually consist of a major polymeric component that provides a suitable mechanical matrix and at least one additive component, usually an inorganic material, with high gas selectivity. Typically, MMMs often see significant enhancements in selectivity and/or permeability over single-component membranes. However, complex interactions between the components of MMMs often result in lower than expected enhancements or a reduction in other desirable properties. Many of the unexpected deficiencies in MMM properties are attributed to poor compatibility between the mixture components. Boundaries with defects, non-selective voids, plastic hardening and low gas transport properties often arise between mismatched MMM components that lack strong interfacial attractions.

Past approaches to overcome those deficiencies have focused on surface modification of inorganic additives to enhance attraction to the polymeric matrix. Those attempts have yielded some successes; however, unpredictability in interfacial properties still arises. This study will explore an approach that seeks to reduce the heterogenous nature of the interface between the components of the membrane, relying on porous molecular additives in contrast to traditional bulk additives. This approach results in more homogenous MMMs with additives being uniformly dispersed and incorporated into the polymeric matrix. Modification to the external functional groups of porous molecules allows for extensive control over the degree of intercalation of additives between polymer chains. Combining this approach with rigid network polymers that resist aging and exhibit intrinsic nanopores suited for the incorporation of porous molecular additives, a series of membranes with tuned interfacial properties for CO2 separation will be produced. The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Hong-Cai Zhou.

A Multiphase Modeling Framework for Second Generation Post-Combustion Carbon Capture SystemsUniversity of North Dakota, 12-month project, $152,989

The project will develop a predictive capability targeting absorption enhancement during the scale-up of second generation post-combustion carbon capture technologies. Specifically, absorber configurations and solvent flow rates that enhance mass transfer rates while minimizing pressure losses and liquid hold will be sought. To meet these objectives, the project has been divided into four tasks: Volume of fluid (VOF) simulations, mass transfer coefficients estimation, model form uncertainty quantification, and documentation of applications and best practices.

Meso-scale simulations employ a two-fluid modeling (TFM) approach where the gas and liquid phases are treated as inter-penetrating continua. Therefore, the interfacial contact area which is critical to the estimation of mass transfer exchange is not explicitly resolved. A straight-forward extension or generalization of this calibration methodology to enable mass transfer predictions within the TFM framework is therefore difficult especially when different packing arrangements or when novel second generation solvents that are more viscous than MEA are explored. The project will fill this knowledge gap by formulating a methodology for deducing interphase exchange coefficients from interface tracing microscale level simulations that can be utilized in mesoscale level TFM simulation.

The first task will assess the adequacies of micro-scale simulations using the VOF interface capturing methodology in OpenFOAM (InterFOAM) toward resolving thin film flows. Predicted outcomes will be compared with the experimental results of wetted area reports in the literature. Further comparisons, of interest to NETL, will examine solvents along with packing shapes and dimensions configurations at different levels of uptake. During the second task, results from the fine-scale simulations, in conjunction with the Higbie Penetration Model, will be employed to develop a methodology for estimating mass transfer coefficients that can be employed in meso-scale CFD simulations. Simulations for the third task will be conducted to model form uncertainty qualification. Using the reacting ParcelFilmFoam solver, which models the contact line movement based on a random contact, might provide adequate accuracies at a reasonable computation cost, in comparison to VOF, for a select class of thin film flows. The study will conclude with a documentation effort including an application and best practice guide. The documentation will enable an extension of this study to reach a wider ranger of packing configurations and solvents by other users of OpenFOAM and MFiX. The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Gautham Krishnamoorthy.

Improved Wellbore Integrity via Sealing Small Cracks with CO2-Soluble Polymers that Block Water, Oil and GasUniversity of Pittsburgh, 24-month project, $271,424

To maintain the highest levels of wellbore integrity, which provide a critical line of defense against uncontrolled releases of geologically sequestered carbon dioxide (CO2) back into the atmosphere, cement is carefully placed in the annulus between the casing and rock formations as the well is being completed. Traditionally, cement is pumped into the annulus between the casing and the rock layers to provide production zone isolation, casing support, and a barrier that prevents produced or injected fluids from migrating into the annulus or into high permeability thief zones. Despite careful placement of cement or cement alternatives, cracks and fractures can still occur. Typically, a cement squeeze is used for remediation of these defects; although well suited for the largest openings, the presence of small particles (1-100 microns) within the cement prevents it from sealing cracks with widths that are comparable in size to the particles.

Solids-free epoxy resins (~100-1000 cp. when fresh, prior to curing) are better suited for flowing into and sealing smaller cracks. Another option is the use of an emulsion (~100 - 500 cp.) of polymerizing chemicals suspended in a carrier liquid; when displaced toward a small crack the carrier fluid passes through the crack while the emulsified droplets accumulate at the crack entrance and polymerize into a seal. The objective of the proposed research is to use an extremely low viscosity novel fluid for sealing small cracks associated with any type of casing cement. This proposed technology is not intended to replace the cement, resin, or polymerizing emulsions; but rather to provide operators with another tool for wellbore integrity, especially if the cracks are large enough to provide leakage pathways.

The proposed fluid is a high pressure, single-phase, transparent solution of CO2 that contains a small amount of completely dissolved high molecular weight polymer that is amorphous, elastic, sticky and thermally stable. Polyfluoroacrylate (PFA) is a unique polymer in that it is extremely hydrophobic and oil-phobic, yet soluble up to about 20 percent wt in high pressure CO2. The viscosity of the CO2-PFA solutions containing up to several percent of PFA is only 0.1 – 1.0 cp; which is 100 – 10,000 less viscous than cement, resin, or polymerizing emulsions. Therefore, the CO2-PFA solution can enter and flow into and through extremely small cracks that are big enough to provide leakage pathways but small enough to hinder the use of traditional approaches such as viscous cements, resins and emulsions. Preliminary tests have shown that when the PFA-CO2 flows through porous rocks or through a crack in cement, the PFA exhibits an extremely strong tendency to adsorb onto cement and rock surfaces. In small cracks, where the ratio of area to volume is high, the adsorption of this sticky polymer can be significant enough to completely seal the crack.

The project can be described as two parallel tasks. The first task, to be conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, will involve the PFA synthesis, studies of how much PFA can be dissolved in CO2 over a wide range of temperature and pressure, and the determination of the viscosity of PFA-CO2 solutions. The second task, to be completed in collaboration with NETL, can best be described as a high-pressure flow-through-crack experiment that is designed to determine if the flow of single-phase CO2-PFA solutions through cracks initially filled with gas, water or oil can cause the cracks to be sealed. Three types of cracks bounded by two surfaces will be considered; cement-cement cracks representative of cracks within the cement, cement-steel cracks intended to represent microannular gaps between the casing and the cement, and cement-rock cracks designed to model cracks between the cement and the surrounding formation. The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Robert Enick.

CO2 Storage Optimization Under Geomechanical Risk and Prediction Uncertainty Using Coupled-Physics ModelsUniversity of Southern California, 24-month project, $270,000

Geologic carbon dioxide (CO2) storage poses several technical challenges related to safety, security, storage efficiency and cost-effectiveness, which must be addressed prior to its commercial deployment. Industry-scale injection of CO2 into geologic formations is believed to trigger coupled multi-physics processes that must be accurately represented to provide reliable predictions of the CO2 displacement behavior and geomechanical changes that may present induced seismicity and leakage risks. Without incorporating the geomechanical risks and the uncertainty in predicting the CO2 storage behavior, engineering design and optimization of geologic CO2 storage systems is unlikely to succeed in addressing the existing concerns.

The objective of this proposal is to develop a novel stochastic optimization framework for geologic CO2 storage by including geomechanical risks and accounting for the uncertainty in predicting the migration and storage behavior of the CO2 plume. To develop the proposed CO2 storage optimization approach, four major technical components will be completed and integrated: (i) development of a coupled fluid flow and geomechanics model that can be used to quantify the storage efficiency of alternative injection configurations, and the related geomechanical effects; (ii) identification of scientifically sound metrics for quantification of geomechanical risks, e.g. rock failure and/or fault reactivation criteria, that can be incorporated into optimization algorithms; (iii) construction of plausible stochastic descriptions of geologic storage formations and their properties, using geostatistical simulation, and propagation of uncertainty with multi-physics models for practical uncertainty quantification; (iv) development of efficient stochastic optimization formulations, including multi-objective optimization and nonlinear constrained optimization, to enable simultaneous optimization of storage performance while maintaining geomechanical risks below a safe and acceptable range. The above components will be integrated into a final workflow for optimization of geologic CO2 storage that will be tested and fine-tuned using field-scale benchmark models. Upon validation with benchmark examples, the developed workflow will be applied to field datasets, including the Illinois Basin-Decatur Project, through existing collaboration with NETL researchers.

The proposed research is expected to advance the state-of-the-art simulation-based optimization technology by incorporating geomechanical risks and accounting for the uncertainty in the description and dynamics of geologic CO2 storage processes. By representing and simulating the underlying coupled multi-physics processes, the proposed approach will provide a scientifically rigorous and practical framework to incorporate geomechanical risks, including induced seismicity and potential leakage, into optimization of geologic CO2 storage. The stochastic nature of the proposed framework will result in robustness against uncertainty in describing the storage aquifer properties and predicting the CO2 migration dynamics and the related geomechanical risks. The project will produce important tools and capabilities for optimization of geologic CO2 storage capacity and for quantification, assessment, and mitigation of geomechanical and geologic risks. The proposed framework will provide a science-based technology that can be applied to evaluate and address important technical questions and concerns related to efficiency and safety of geologic CO2 storage. The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Behnam Jafarpour.

Catalytic Conversion of CO2 Into Vinyl AcetateLouisiana State University, 24-month project, $399,948

This project directly addresses the UCFER subtopic K-1 d, “Heterogeneous Catalysts for CO2 Conversion to Products,” by researching the reaction of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and acetylene (C2H2) to vinyl acetate (VA), shown below in reaction 1.

Reaction 1: CH4 + CO2 + C2H2 → CH3CO2CHCH2

VA is one of the most widely used chemical intermediates in the world, producing more than 14 billion lb/yr, with a value of $10 billion/yr, corresponding to the consumption of 7 billion lb CO2/yr. Estimates have shown that new VA plants will be needed to meet anticipated demands. Those demands provide a commercial opportunity for an economically competitive process based on the use of CO2 as a feedback.

Earlier work at Louisiana State University has demonstrated the feasibility of a two-step reaction sequence, shown in reaction 3, based on reaction 1, the carboxylation of methane to acetic acid, and reaction 2, the acetylation of acetic acid.

Reaction 2: CH4 + CO2 → CH3COOH

Reaction 3: CH3COOH + C2H2 → CH3CO2CHCH2

Reactions 1 and 2 have both been demonstrated individually, but only with a mechanical mixture of 5 percent Pt/Al2O3 which catalyzes, reaction 2, and Zn acetate/C, which catalyzes reaction 3. During past studies, the mixture deactivated rapidly, due to coke, although VA was successfully produced. In this study, we propose to synthesize and test a single catalyst for reaction 2 and 3. Due to the reactions’ fundamental differences, it will be challenging to develop a catalyst that produces VA from CH4, CO2 and C2H2 at conditions that are not optimum for either carboxylation or acetylation. The goal of a single catalyst to produce a high-value product using CO2 is potentially transformative.

This study will be conducted by first synthesizing and characterizing dual-function catalysts that will catalyze the carboxylation of methane, shown in reaction 2, and acetylation of acetic acid, show in reaction 3. Next, we will systematically investigate the kinetics and mechanism of the three reactions and the formation of coke. We plan to use isotopically labeled reactants to determine how coke is produced. We note that the net reaction 1 is not thermodynamically favorable, so the energy required industrially must be based on no- or low-carbon processes to address CO2 utilization goals. Potential benefits from this project include a practical reaction sequence based on CO2 use and producing a high-volume, high-value chemical intermediate, an important NETL objective. The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. James Spivey.

Atomically Precise Au25-Based Alloy Nanoclusters for Electrochemical CO2 ConversionUniversity of Pittsburgh, 24-month project, $179,784

The synthesis of thermodynamically stable, atomically precise metal nanoparticles protected by ligands has been experimentally realized, especially for thiolate-protected Au nanoclusters, which consist of a few dozens of metal atoms. Although the exact structure and electronic characteristics of these nanoclusters are known, they are still significantly under-explored as catalysts. One of the reasons hindering their catalytic application is the presence of ligands on the nanoparticle surface which are responsible for their increased stability along with decreasing the accessibility of reactants to the metal sites and their catalytic functionality. Thus, there is a critical need to identify chemical strategies to engineer ligand-protected metal nanoparticles in a way to balance their stability and catalytic activity. The present project aims to introduce strategies to engineer the selective removal of surface ligands and generation of catalytic active-sites that convert carbon dioxide (CO2) to carbon monoxide (CO).

This project utilizes first-principles calculations to design atomically precise, metal-doped, ligand protected Au nanocatalysts that partially lose ligands during electrochemical conditions, generate active sites that selectively reduce CO2 to CO while producing H2 from H2O, and retain their catalytic stability. The computational efforts nicely complement both ligand-protected Au nanocatalyst synthesis and electrocatalytic CO2 reduction experimental efforts at the NETL in Pittsburgh. The proposed research is at the heart of the UCFER’s research topic, “Carbon Use and Reuse–Chemical Processes for CO2 Conversion to Products.”

Developing the capability to efficiently generate catalytically active sites in-situ by tuning the reaction conditions, while retaining the stability of the catalyst, will open completely new avenues in catalysis to produce chemicals. The present project, as evidenced by our preliminary results, will demonstrate the first strategy that converts a thermodynamically stable and catalytically inert nanocluster to a highly active and selective nanocatalyst that produces syngas (CO+H2) under electrochemical conditions.

This project advances the state-of-the-art nanocatalyst design by achieving controlled and selective chemical doping of Au nanoclusters with atomic precision. In addition, this project advances environmental science by designing ligand-protected bimetallic nanostructures that convert CO2, a key “green-house gas” to fuels and chemicals. Importantly, the project will reveal the detailed mechanisms that control the stability and catalytic properties of these novel nanocatalysts and accelerate their experimental synthesis and catalytic application. Approaches to designing such optimal nanocatalysts as the type developed in this project, can have an important impact on the economy and the environment through the discovery of previously unknown nanostructures that enable mitigation of CO2 emissions and conversion of CO2 to useful fuels and chemicals (e.g., syngas for chemicals).  The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Ioannis Bourmpakis.

Optimization of Microwave-Driven Plasma-Assisted Conversion of Methane to Hydrogen and GrapheneThe Pennsylvania State University, 12-month project, $213,168

The co-production of hydrogen and high-value carbon materials from natural gas offers opportunities to (i) reduce the costs associated with large-scale hydrogen energy product; (ii) creates market demand, technologies, and infrastructure to enable hydrogen energy deployment; and (iii) utilizes domestic natural gas for manufacturing energy and synthetic carbon products. New reactor systems and designs featuring process intensification are needed to overcome the energy and carbon dioxide (CO2) penalties of SMR, catalyst deactivation in thermocatalytic cracking, and for reducing system costs towards producing portable, modular, reactor systems.

Identifying the most efficient co-production method of hydrogen technologies could enable additional uses for such stranded domestic energy resources as natural gas reserves while also diversify hydrogen feedstocks. Hydrogen as a product presents opportunities in oil refineries, ammonia and methanol production. Carbon materials are valuable as electrically conductive polymer compounds, composite materials, elastomers, coatings, battery electrodes and inks, mechanically reinforced structural composites, elastomers and polymer compounds, barrier films, thermally conductive polymer compounds, composite materials, elastomers and coatings, electromagnetic (EMI) shielding components.

There are five main objectives for this study including (i) optimize reactor design and process conditions for hydrogen production with capability to tune carbon product characteristics; (ii) evaluation of methane conversion, product yields and selectivity; (iii) determine impact upon carbon and hydrogen production for other natural gas components; (iv) test separation method(s) for recovering the carbon and hydrogen from the reactor/process; and (v) perform analysis of the energy, mass, and carbon footprints for the reactor/process.

The study will rely on experiments that analyze a dependent variable (i.e. response) in terms of several independent variables (i.e. factors). Each variable is a process parameter and is varied over a range suitable for its role in the process which, among other benefits, will identify the identification of interactions between main factors. Through a systematic variation of main factors, a surface response function may be defined. Notably the process output is a single variable. The novelty here is that we plan to use the same set of experiments for several responses.

Other major goals include developing relations between carbon product form and characteristics and process parameters. Such functional relationships will enable selective production of specific carbon forms and tailoring of their physical-chemical properties.  

To complete this study, H Quest Vanguard, Inc. will provide Penn State researchers access to their facilities as necessary to execute the proposed work and will collaborate to execute the developed experiments on H Quest’s engineering pilot system. H Quest will also provide reactor EM modeling results (ANSYS) as data input into the relations development process. The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Randy Vander Wal.

Autothermal Methane Decomposition for Large-Scale Co-production of CO2-free H2 and Aligned Carbon NanotubeWest Virginia State University, 12-month project, $196,996

Catalytic decomposition of methane for natural gas to manufacture hydrogen and solid carbon products has been shown to improve the overall economics of large-scale hydrogen production, which is of importance for NETL’s Fuel Cell Technology/ Natural Gas Conversion to Hydrogen and Carbon Products Program. Due to endothermic nature of C-H breakage and amorphous growth of surface carbon deposition, there are significant technical and economic difficulties in the deployment of this promising technology on a commercial scale. Major hurdles include the integration of endothermic catalytic decomposition with carbon-free energy supply along with catalyst stability, regeneration and effective recovery of carbon products.

To address those challenges, we will develop a groundbreaking catalyst that integrates catalytic methane decomposition with advanced Chemical Looping Combustion (CLC) technology through the West Virginia University-NETL patented process. The catalyst will directly convert natural gas to carbon dioxide (CO2)-free hydrogen with high purity and such crystalline carbon as carbo nanotube (CNT). Closely working with NETL coinventor and collaborators, we will achieve a bench scale demonstration with greater than 98 percent carbon conversion and greater than 90 percent carbon recovery efficiency. The success of the proposed project will advance this transformational technology from TRL3 to TRL4.  The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Hanjing Tian.

A Computational Investigation of Coal Conversion via Microwave-Induced PlasmasWest Virginia State University, 24-month project, $217,640

The objective of this research is to model the microwave interaction with a ferromagnetic catalyst and a synthetic coal material to determine the role of particle composition, shape, and size on coal conversion process. This research will heavily rely on finite difference time domain (FDTD) simulations to quantify the electromagnetic interactions and identify fundamental mechanism of the conversion process. The modeling approach will also be used to correlate constitutive material attributes using a statistical approach and provide estimate of coal conversion efficiency. The simulation will be tightly correlated with experimental testing that includes in-situ measurement of material response. The research will use the state-of-the-art characterization, microwave, and High-Performance Computing (HPC) facilities at NETL. The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Terence Musho.