Preparation, characterization, and evaluation of Mg-Al mixed oxide supported nickel catalysts for the steam reforming of ethanol
Coleman, Luke James Ivor
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The conversion of ethanol to hydrogen or syngas can be achieved by reacting ethanol with water via steam reforming, CH3CH2OH + (1-x)H2O = (4-x)H2 + (2-x)CO + xCO2 (R.1) CH3CH2OH + H2O = 4H2 + 2CO (R.2) CO + H2O = H2 + CO2 (R.3) Ideally, the ethanol steam reforming reaction can achieve a hydrogen yield of 6 moles of hydrogen per mole of ethanol when the value of x in (R.1) equals 2. High theoretical H2 yield makes ethanol steam reforming a very attractive route for H2 production. Thermodynamic equilibrium studies have shown that ethanol steam reforming produces mixtures of H2, CO, CO2, and CH4 below 950 K, while above 950 K the ethanol steam reforming reaction (R.1) adequately describes the product composition In this study a series of 10wt% Ni loaded Mg-Al mixed oxide supported catalysts were evaluated for the production of hydrogen via the steam reforming of ethanol. Mg-Al mixed oxide supported nickel catalysts were found to give superior activity, steam reforming product selectivity (H2 and COx), and improved catalyst stability than the pure oxide supported nickel catalyst at both temperatures investigated. Activity, product selectivity, and catalyst stability were dependent upon the Al and Mg content of the support. At 923 K, the Mg-Al mixed oxide supported nickel catalysts were the best performing catalysts exhibiting the highest steam reforming product yield and were highly stable, showing no signs of deactivation after 20 h of operation. The improved performance of the Mg-Al mixed oxide supported catalysts was related to the incorporation of the pure oxides, MgO and Al2O3, into MgAl2O4. The formation of MgAl2O4 reduced nickel incorporation with the support material since MgAl2O4 does not react with Ni; therefore, nickel was retained in its active form. In addition, incorporation of Mg and Al in to MgAl2O4, a slight basic material, modified the acid-base properties resulting in a catalyst that exhibited moderate acidic and basic site strength and density compared to the pure oxide supported catalysts. Moderation of the acid-base properties improved the activity, selectivity, and stability of the catalysts by reducing activity for by-product reactions producing ethylene and acetaldehyde. At lower reaction temperatures, below 823 K, Mg-Al mixed oxide supported nickel catalysts experienced substantial deactivation resulting in reduced ethanol conversion but interestingly, the H2 and CO2 yields increased, exceeding equilibrium expectations with time on stream while CH4 yield decreased far below equilibrium expectations, suggesting a direct ethanol steam reforming reaction pathway. Over stabilized Mg-Al mixed oxide supported nickel catalysts, direct ethanol steam reforming was activated by a reduction in the catalyst’s activity for the production and desorption of CH4 from the surface. The effect of pressure on the direct ethanol steam reforming reaction pathway over stabilized Mg-Al mixed oxide supported nickel catalysts was investigated at 673 and 823 K. At 823 K, increasing the total pressure resulted in a product distribution that closely matched the thermodynamic expectations. However, at 673 K, the product distribution deviated from thermodynamic expectations, giving substantially greater yields for the steam reforming products, H2, CO, and CO2, while CH4 yield was consistently less than equilibrium expectations. The identification of an alternative direct ethanol steam reforming reaction pathway at relatively low temperatures (below 823 K) that could be operated at elevated pressures will result in an energy efficient process for the production of hydrogen from bio-ethanol.