Plug flow reactors are very common in the chemical process industry, including methane/steam reforming applications. Their operation presents many challenges, such as a strong dependence of temperature and composition distribution on the inlet conditions. The strongly endothermic methane/steam reforming reaction might result in a temperature drop at the inlet of the reactor and consequently the occurrence of large temperature gradients. The strongly non-uniform temperature distribution due to endothermic chemical reaction can have tremendous consequences on the operation of the reactor, such as catalyst degradation, undesired side reactions and thermal stresses. To avoid such unfavorable conditions, thermal management of the reactor becomes an important issue. To carry out thermal management properly, detailed modeling and corresponding numerical analyses of the phenomena occurring inside the reforming system is required. This paper presents experimental and numerical studies on the methane/steam reforming process inside a plug-flow reactor. To optimize the reforming reactors, detailed data about the entire reforming process is required. In this study the kinetics of methane/steam reforming on the Ni/YSZ catalyst was experimentally investigated. Measurements including different thermal boundary conditions, the fuel flow rate and the steam- to-methane ratios were performed. The reforming rate equation derived from experimental data was used in the numerical model to predict gas composition and temperature distribution along the steam-reforming reactor. Finally, an attempt was made to control the temperature distribution by adopting locally controlled heating zones.
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