Solar Steam Reforming of Methane Rich Gas for Synthesis Gas Production

Title of Programme
Financing Code for Project
Project start year - end year 2004 - 2007
Financing organisation
Coordinator Deutsches Zentrum fuer Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR)
Other partners
Aerosol and Particle Technology Laboratory (APTL)
Weizmann Institute of Science (WIZ)
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)
Johnson Matthey Fuel Cell Ltd. (JM)
Budget / APTL Budget 3,451,986 € / 337,910 €
Scientific Manager / Project researcher A. G. Konstandopoulos
Project website
The solar reforming process which is carried out in the SOLREF project enhances the calorific value of CH4 by 25%, contributed by the solar energy. The synthesis gas produced (CO+H2) can either be used to generate electricity, to provide hydrogen as an energy vector or to produce Fischer Tropsch synthetic fuels. Solar reforming of CH4 was tested in a 400 kW scale. A result of this project was that essential modifications are required to advance this unique solar technology to the prototype stage in the 1 MW range.

In the beginning a design study for a prototype to be operated at a natural gas well in southern Italy was planned. Due to a change in the consortium this was changed to cover more possible locations in the whole Mediterranean region. The major innovative modification of SOLREF is a new catalytic system for higher operating temperatures which allows a broad range of feed compositions and means to avoid the carbon deposition in the reformer reactor.
In addition an advanced solar reformer was developed including basic mechanical and process improvements, like a new front flange, innovative insulation and replacement of the nitrogen purge streams. These modifications were tested and validated under real solar conditions at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Besides, biogas, landfill gas and contaminated natural gas (CH4 with a high content of CO2) can be processed and upgraded, using the SOLREF technology. With this feedstock, reduction of CO2 emission is significantly enhanced.