Sustainable hydrogen production by glycerol steam reforming over metallurgical waste-driven catalysts

Authors: Ali Zadeh Sahraei, Ommolbanin
Advisor: Iliuta, Maria-CornéliaLarachi, Faïcal
Other Title(s): Production durable d'hydrogène par reformage à la vapeur de glycérol sur catalyseurs à base d'un déchet métallurgique
Abstract: The crises related to the environmental degradation and shrinking natural resources reinforces the necessity of extending the life of any residual material or unwanted by-product in the production and consumption systems. In this context, the idea of developing new catalysts using industrial solid wastes is an emerging topic, which aligns well with the concept of sustainable development. On the other hand, due to the rapid technological, industrial, and informational advancements, the energy supply will not be able to keep up with the growing demand. The importance of supplying this energy in a sustainable manner in order to meet the goals of global efforts to combat climate change has heightened interest in the development of renewable hydrocarbon biofuels such as biodiesel. Over the last few decades, with the growth in biodiesel production, the world has faced a surplus of glycerol as a waste by-product of its common production process through transesterification. To reduce the negative environmental impact of this excess glycerol and to make the biodiesel industry profitable, this waste should contribute to a sustainable environmental circular economy. Recent research has indicated that there is a great potential for the use of biodiesel waste glycerol in the renewable energy sector. This can be achieved through a variety of processes including gasification, pyrolysis, combustion, liquefaction, and steam reforming. Among them, catalytic steam reforming is considered as one of the most promising methods for converting glycerol into hydrogen (as a green energy carrier and a critical feedstock in refineries and chemical industries), since its industrial scale-up would not necessitate significant changes to existing natural gas reforming infrastructure. Given the importance of these issues, this thesis focuses on the development of new catalysts through valorization of a metallurgical solid residue (UGSO) for hydrogen (syngas) production via steam reforming of biodiesel waste glycerol (GSR). More specifically, the three main objectives of our work include:(i) investigating the potential of UGSO as a support/promoter for Ni-based catalysts, (ii) performing a thorough investigation on the effect of catalyst synthesis parameters (active metal loading and catalyst preparation method) on both physicochemical properties and catalyst performance, as well as studying the effect of operating temperature by examining the role of the main side reactions in the reaction network (including water gas shift (WGS), Boudouard, CO and CO₂ methanation, and reverse WGS reactions), and finally (iii) comparing the structural characteristic and catalytic performance of the optimized Ni-UGSO with noble metal based catalysts (Ru-UGSO and Rh-UGSO) with well-known high efficiency for steam reforming process. (i) The catalyst prepared by the incorporation of 12.5 wt % Ni into UGSO was evaluated for application in GSR process at specific operating conditions suggested as optimum by thermodynamic analysis (T=580 °C, P=1 bar, and S/C=3). By comparing with a Ni-based commercial steam reforming catalyst, the results were very promising especially in terms of coke formation. The main reasons for the interesting properties of Ni-UGSO catalyst were suggested to be: (i) the dispersion and anchoring of Ni particles by formation of nickel-iron as well as nickel-magnesium mixed oxides, (ii) the lack of free metallic phases through the formation of Ni-Fe alloys after reduction pre-treatment, and (iii) the basic characteristic of UGSO due to the presence of oxides such as MgO, CaO, K₂O and MnO, which could promote dissociative adsorption of water and boost WGS reaction. These results proved the capability of Ni promoted UGSO to act as a powerful GSR catalyst. (ii) The results of a detailed study on the effects of synthesis parameters on the performance of Ni-UGSO catalyst revealed that the best GSR performance was achieved by incorporating 5 wt % Ni via solid-state impregnation method (SSI-5%Ni-UGSO), where nickel-iron mixed oxides with an optimum Ni/Fe ratio (such as NiFe₂O₄) and Mg-rich nickel-magnesium mixed oxides (such as 3MgO.NiO) were formed. The superior performance of the optimized SSI-5%Ni-UGSO catalyst is mainly due to (i) the synergic effect between Ni and partially reduced iron oxide species on the Ni-Fe[indice x]O[indice y] active sites (rather than metallic Ni and/or NiFe alloys) where glycerol is activated on the Ni species and the oxygen atoms are provided to the carbonaceous intermediate from the neighboring Fe[indice x]O[indice y], and (ii) the basic properties of MgO in close contact with Ni, which promotes the dissociation of water into hydroxyl groups and helps to gasify the coke precursors deposited on the catalyst surface. For temperatures above 580 °C, almost complete glycerol conversions to gaseous products were obtained over SSI-5%Ni-UGSO catalyst in the selected operating conditions (S/C=3, FI=1.1, GHSV=10,966 cm³ (STP) gcat⁻¹ h⁻¹). Higher H₂ yield (80.7%) and very low coke formation (0.59 mg[indice coke] h⁻¹(m²/g[indice cat)⁻¹) are the advantages of working at 580 °C by favoring the WGS reaction, whereas increasing temperature to 730 °C allows to almost suppress coke formation (0.18 mg[indice coke] h⁻¹(m²/g[indice cat])⁻¹) mainly by limiting the Boudouard reaction, with the drawback of a lower hydrogen yield (59.4%). (iii) The results of a comprehensive study on the performance of M-promoted (M=1%Ru, 1%Rh, 5%Ni) UGSO catalysts (M-UGSO) for GSR process revealed that the tendency of incorporated metal to interact with Mg/Fe containing oxides already exist in UGSO, plays a crucial role in the surface availability of the corresponding metal, structural changes after reduction, and catalyst stability. Aside its best stability, 5% Ni-UGSO showed a performance (glycerol conversion to gaseous products of 100% and H₂ yield of 74%) comparable with 1% Rh-UGSO (100% and 78%, respectively) or even surpassing that of 1% Ru-UGSO (94% and 71%, respectively), as noble metal-based catalysts. Synergistic cooperation was achieved by incorporated metals(M) and Fe/Mg containing species within UGSO, resulting in enhanced glycerol and water activation. The weakest results of Ru-UGSO could be explained by a lack of proclivity for MgO-RuO₂ interaction on UGSO surface. Regarding the significantly lower price of Ni compared to Rh (1/5526 of the average price of Rh in 2018), as lightly higher hydrogen yield (78 vs. 74%) and trivial difference in coke formation (0 vs. 0.01 g[indice coke] h⁻¹ g[indice cat]⁻¹) does not economically justify the use of 1% Rh-UGSO instead of the affordable 5% Ni-UGSO. In conclusion, the results presented in this thesis proved the capability of UGSO as a promising support/promoter in the formulation of active, selective, stable, and cost-effective catalysts for hydrogen production via GSR process, owing to (i) the presence of oxides (mainly magnesium and iron oxides) recognized for their ability to avoid carbon formation(the main cause of catalyst deactivation in the steam reforming of oxygenated hydrocarbons), and (ii) the spinel crystalline structure with homogeneously distributed exchangeable metal cations that can provide a good pattern for active metal dispersion, leading to a synergic cooperation between the incorporated active metal particles (especially Ni with high availability and low price) and the other constituents of UGSO. Such approaches, in which industrial wastes from various processes are used together for environmental applications, are not only consistent with the concepts of industrial ecology and sustainable development but are also classified as the most sophisticated level of waste valorization.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2022
Open Access Date: 9 May 2022
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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