Monitoring Gasification with a Mass Spec Gas Analyzer

Research in the field of biomass gasification is increasingly important as industry continues to find new uses for syngas. At the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) an Extrel MAX300-RTG process mass spectrometer was used to monitor the exit stream of a Fluid Bed Gasifier. The quadrupole mass spectrometer provided fast, quantitative analysis of the syngas composition.

Over the last several years, concern about the economic and environmental impact of traditional fossil fuel combustion and petrochemicals has led to a search for viable alternatives with gasification emerging as a powerful technique for generating fuel and hydrocarbons. The gasification process makes use of materials such as coal, biomass, and waste to produce synthesis gas, or syngas. Syngas is a combustible mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide that generally contains a small amount of methane and some trace contaminants. Syngas is used as a fuel source to generate power and heat, or converted into products like hydrogen, for use in fuel cells or fertilizer generation, or liquid fuels via a Fischer-Tropsch reaction.

Gasification and chemical processes utilizing syngas rely upon the ability to obtain information about the composition of the gas stream exiting the reactor. The MAX300-RTG is a 7th generation process mass spectrometer capable of performing quantitative analysis on a wide variety of compounds at concentrations ranging from 100% down to 10 ppb. The 19 mm quadrupole mass filter used by the system allows for high analytical repeatability and long-term stability.

The MAX300-RTG demonstrated that it has the flexibility to quickly characterize and quantify syngas mixtures. It has the sensitivity to detect trace components at ppm levels and below, and the speed to perform each measurement in under 0.4 seconds. The ability to analyze the complete array of syngas components exiting the gasifier, from 100% down to ppm levels, makes the MAX300-RTG an instrument capable of replacing complicated analysis systems involving multiple devices and technologies. The speed of the mass spectrometer means that the MAX300-RTG can be automated to monitor gas composition at several sample points, delivering a complete set of concentrations at 20 seconds per point.

At the EERC, additional sampling at the ports downstream of the reactor could yield important insight into the operation and efficiency of the fixed beds, or be used to analyze hydrogen membrane separation, or a Fischer-Tropsch product. The speed and flexibility of the MAX300-IG, combined with the capability to run 24/7 in rugged and hazardous industrial environments, make it ideal for monitoring production scale gasification and any associated chemical processes downstream. At large facilities that utilize syngas, like ammonia plants, the MAX300-RTG and its predecessors have set the standard for analyzer automation and process control over the last several decades.

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