Document Type


Publication Date



Statler College of Engineering and Mining Resources


Chemical and Biomedical Engineering


In production of electricity from coal, integrated gasification combined cycle plants typically operate with conventional packed bed reactors for the water-gas shift reaction, and a Selexol process for carbon dioxide removal. Implementation of membrane reactors in place of these two process units provides advantages such as increased carbon monoxide conversion, facilitated CO2 removal/sequestration and process intensification. Proposed H2-selective membranes for these reactors are typically of palladium alloy or ceramic due to their outstanding gas separation properties; however, on an industrial scale, the cost of such materials may become exorbitant. High-performance polymeric membranes, such as polybenzimidazoles (PBIs), present themselves as low-cost alternatives with gas separation properties suitable for use in such membrane reactors, given their significant thermal and chemical stability. In this work, the performance of a class of high-performance polymeric membranes is assessed for use in integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) units operated with carbon capture, subject to constraints on equipment and process streams. Several systems are considered for use with the polymeric membranes, including membrane reactors and permeative stage reactors. Based upon models developed for each configuration, constrained optimization problems are formulated which seek to more efficiently employ membrane surface area. From the optimization results, the limiting membrane parameter for achieving all carbon capture and H2 production specifications for water–gas shift reactor applications is determined to be the selectivity, αH2{CO2 , and thus a minimum value of this parameter which satisfies all the constraints is identified for each analyzed configuration. For a CO2 capture value of 90%, this value is found to be α = 61 for the membrane reactor and the 3-stage permeative stage reactor and α = 62 for the 2-stage permeative stage reactor. The proposed systems approach has the potential to be employed to identify performance limitations associated with membrane materials to guide the development of future polymeric and other advanced materials with desired membrane characteristics for energy and environmental applications.

Source Citation

Radcliffe, A., Singh, R., Berchtold, K., & Lima, F. (2016). Modeling and Optimization of High-Performance Polymer Membrane Reactor Systems for Water–Gas Shift Reaction Applications. Processes, 4(2), 8.


© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons by Attribution (CC-BY) license (



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