Journal of Energy in Southern Africa
On-line version ISSN 2413-3051
BOTHA, Frikkie; DOBSON, Robert and HARMS, Thomas. Simulation of a syngas from a coal production plant coupled to a high temperature nuclear reactor. J. energy South. Afr. [online]. 2013, vol.24, n.2, pp. 37-45. ISSN 2413-3051.
In light of the rapid depletion of the world's oil reserves, concerns about energy security prompted the exploration of alternative sources of liquid fuels for transportation. One such alternative is the production of synthetic fuel using an indirect coal liquefaction process or coal-to-liquids (CTL) process. In this process, coal is gasified in a gasifier in the presence of steam and oxygen to produce a synthesis gas or syngas consisting mainly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The syngas is then converted to liquid fuels and a variety of useful chemicals in a Fischer Tropsch-type synthesis reactor. However, the traditional process for syngas production also produces substantial amounts of carbon dioxide. In fact, only about one third of the carbon in the coal feedstock ends up in the liquid fuel product using traditional CTL technology. If more hydrogen was available than the hydrogen produced during the gasification step, the carbon utilisation of the process could be improved significantly. The high temperature reactor (HTR) is a gas cooled Generation IV nuclear reactor ideally suited to provide power and high temperature heat for carbon neutral production of hydrogen via high temperature electrolysis. The integration of an HTR into a CTL process therefore provides an opportunity to improve the thermal and carbon efficiency of the CTL process significantly. This paper presents a possible process flow scheme for a nuclear assisted CTL process. The system is evaluated in terms of its thermal or syngas production efficiency (defined as the ratio of the heating value of the produced syngas to the sum of the heating value of the coal plus the HTR heat input) as well as its carbon utilisation. If the hydrogen production plant is sized to produce only enough associated oxygen to supply the needs of the gasification plant, syngas is produced at about 63% thermal efficiency, while 71.5% of the carbon is utilised in this process. It was found that the optimum HTR outlet temperature to produce hydrogen with a high temperature steam electrolysis process is 850°C. If enough process heat and power are available and process equipment capacities are sufficient, the carbon utilisation of the process could be improved even further to values in excess of 90%.
Keywords : High temperature reactor; gasification; high temperature electrolysis; cogeneration; coal-to-liquids; synthesis gas.