Journal article Open Access

Aqueous phase reforming of pilot-scale Fischer-Tropsch water effluent for sustainable hydrogen production

Giulia Zoppi; Giuseppe Pipitone; Hannes Gruber; Gerald Weber; Alexander Reichhold; Raffaele Pirone; Samir Bensaid

Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis produces an aqueous stream containing light oxygenates as major by-product. The low carbon concentration of the organics makes its thermal recovery unprofitable. Thus, novel processes are needed to utilize this waste carbon content. In this work, the aqueous phase reforming of the wastewater obtained from a 15 kWth Fischer-Tropsch plant was explored as a promising process to produce hydrogen at mild temperatures. The FT product water was firstly characterized and afterward subjected to the reforming at different reaction temperatures and time, using a platinum catalyst supported on activated carbon. It was observed that, besides activity, the selectivity towards hydrogen was favored at higher temperatures; equally, increasing the reaction time allowed to obtain the total conversion of most molecules found in the solution, without decreasing the selectivity and reaching a plateau at 4 hours in the hydrogen productivity. In order to get more insights into the reaction mechanism and product distribution derived from the APR of FT product water, several tests were performed with single compounds, finding characteristic features. The importance of the position of the hydroxyl group in the molecule structure was highlighted, with secondary alcohols more prone to dehydrogenation pathways compared to primary alcohols. Moreover, no interference among the substrates was reported despite the mixture is constituted by several molecules: in fact, the results obtained with the real FT product water were analogous to the linear combination of the single compound tests. Finally, the reuse of the catalyst showed no appreciable deactivation phenomena.

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