Journal article

Optimal Design of Solar Assisted Hydrothermal Gasification for Microalgae to Synthetic Natural Gas Conversion

Catalytic hydrothermal gasification is a promising technology which allows the conversion of wet biomass into methane rich syngas. It consists of three major steps, in which thermal energy has to be supplied at different temperature levels, leading to multiple products, such as clean water, nutrients/salts and methane rich syngas. Microalgae have an important potential as a new source of biomass, principally due to the fact that they can grow much faster than others biomass feedstock available in nature. Considering the energy balance of the algae cultivation step, the gasification process and thecrude product upgrading step, part of the converted syngas has to be used to close the energy balance. In this context, solar heat can be considered as an alternative to replace the heat that has to be generated from product or crude product burning. This would lead to higher fuel production, higher carbon conversion efficiency and in general a better sustainable use of energy sources. In this paper, the goal is to show the integration potential of solar thermal energy use in the catalytic hydrothermal gasification of microalgae. In order to maximize the fuel production, thermal energy requirements of the gasification and SNG upgrading process can be generated in concentrating solar systems, coupled with thermal energy storage. This allows to continuously provide heat for the process at different temperature levels. A superstructure of design models will permit the estimation of the optimal size and integration of the solar utility for different process configurations. The optimal design configurations are evaluated by solving a multi objective optimization problem which aims at the maximization of conversion efficiency and the minimization of operating and total production costs. Copyright © 2013, AIDIC Servizi S.r.l.


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