A pre-combustion capture process typically comprises a first stage of reaction producing a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide (syngas) from a primary fuel. The two main routes are to add steam (reaction 1), in which case the process is called 'steam reforming', or oxygen (reaction 2) to the primary fuel. In the latter case, the process is often called 'partial oxidation' when applied to gaseous and liquid fuels and 'gasification' when applied to a solid fuel, but the principles are the same.

Steam reforming

Partial oxidation

This is followed by the 'shift' reaction to convert CO to CO2 by the addition of steam (reaction 3):

Water Gas Shift Reaction

Finally, the CO2 is removed from the CO2/H2 mixture. The concentration of CO2 in the input to the CO2/H2 separation stage can be in the range 15-60% (dry basis) and the total pressure is typically 2-7 MPa. The separated CO2 is then available for storage.

It is possible to envisage two applications of pre-combustion capture. The first is in producing a fuel (hydrogen) that is essentially carbon-free. Although the product H2 does not need to be absolutely pure and may contain low levels of methane, CO or CO2, the lower the level of carbon-containing compounds, the greater the reduction in CO2 emissions. The H2 fuel may also contain inert diluents, such as nitrogen (when air is typically used for partial oxidation), depending on the production process and can be fired in a range of heaters, boilers, gas turbines or fuel cells.

Secondly, pre-combustion capture can be used to reduce the carbon content of fuels, with the excess carbon (usually removed as CO2) being made available for storage. For example, when using a low H:C ratio fuel such as coal it is possible to gasify the coal and to convert the syngas to liquid Fischer-Tropsch fuels and chemicals which have a higher H:C ratio than coal. In this section, we consider both of these applications.

This section reports on technologies for the production of H2 with CO2 capture that already exist and those that are currently emerging. It also describes enabling technologies that need to be developed to enhance the pre-combustion capture systems for power, hydrogen or synfuels and chemicals production or combination of all three.

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

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