A non-wetting packed bed gas scrubber
Present integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) systems demonstrate high system efficiency and impressive environmental performance, giving them an edge over conventional pulverised fuel power stations. A key area in the development of IGCCs is hot fuel gas clean-up (HGCU). Fuel gas cleaning at elevated temperatures reduces thermal efficiency losses associated with gas quenching in conventional cold gas cleaning methods. Current hot gas desulphurisation techniques focus on the use of regenerable metal oxide sorbents, however the long-term sorbent performance issues have yet to be fully addressed. A fresh and radical approach may provide the key to overcoming the inherent limitations associated with metal oxide sorbents. A molten tin irrigated packed bed scrubber adopted in this research project is one such innovative way forward in HGCU. The hot scrubber offers the prospect of a multicomponent clean-up device. High-temperature sulphur removal takes place via absorption of H2S (and COS) into molten tin whilst discrete molten tin droplets and rivulets on the packing surface act as solid particulate collectors. The primary aim of this research project was to investigate the workings of a small-scale room temperature packed bed scrubber operating under non-wetting flow conditions analogous to the molten tin irrigated scrubber. Water irrigation of low surface energy packings simulated the nonwetting flow of liquid metals. The air-water analogue of the liquid metal scrubber provided the platform for hydrodynamics (flow visualisation, flooding and liquid holdup), particulate removal and mass transfer studies under non-wetting flow conditions. The performance of a small air lift for water circulation through the column was also investigated. These cold studies offered insight into the operation and performance of the liquid metal hot scrubber. Prior to the cold gas scrubber studies, preliminary small-scale gasification tests on petroleum coke samples were performed to investigate the effect of molten tin on H2S in the product fuel gas. The tests provided actual experimental evidence of the possibility of sulphur removal by molten tin in a gasification environment. It was shown that the maximum possible size of a liquid droplet hanging from a non-wetting spherical solid surface could be predicted from the liquid surface tension and density based on force balance. The mobility of static holdup in a non-wettable packed bed has been demonstrated, this being due to the tendency for the liquid to form discrete droplets rather than spreading films. Existing flooding and liquid holdup correlations that hold for conventional wettable packed beds were shown to be inadequate where non-wetting systems were concerned. Summary hence alternative methods applicable to the latter were sought. The introduction of a non-wetting tendency factor based on the ratio of the solid critical surface tension to the liquid surface tension, enabled the flooding capacities of non-wetting systems including those of this study to be predicted using Sherwood et al. 's graphical flooding correlation. The total volumetric liquid holdup was well correlated against the bed pressure drop, true gas velocity and gas density, offering the prospects of predicting holdup for systems using the same spherical packing. In general, the water-irrigated packed bed showed good hydrodynamic similarities to liquid metal systems, suggesting a dominating influence of liquid-solid contact angle which overrides striking differences in liquid physical properties. The performance of the small air lift pump was unaffected by varying the number of gas ports on the injector without any change to the hole size. The operating curve of the air lift pump could be predicted with good accuracy using momentum balance and two phase flow theory, provided that all major pressure losses in the system were accounted for, including notably the downcomer friction losses and accelerative effects. The non-wetting packed bed scrubber demonstrated impressive dust removal performance. Total separation efficiencies as high as 99.6% and cut sizes approaching submicron were achieved. Dust particles larger than about 6.5 um can be separated to efficiencies greater than 98%. Complete particle separation was achieved in all cases for dust particles larger than 16 J..lm. Particulate removal in a packed bed of spheres under non-wetting flow conditions has also been modelled using computational fluid dynamics (FLUENT). Simulation results showed that particle separation efficiency increases with particle size and density, but is unaffected by particle concentration. The predicted particle size corresponding to 98% efficiency is about 40 J..lm. In mass transfer, the height of the gas film transfer unit of various non-wetting spherical packed bed systems including those of this study was correlated successfully against the gas phase Reynolds number, the liquid superficial velocity and the packing diameter. Results from the cold gas scrubber studies have offered insight and understanding into the workings and development of the liquid metal packed bed gas scrubber. Findings and correlations derived from the water model studies, occasionally complemented by data from other non-wetting systems, have provided the means to predict the hydrodynamics, particulate removal capability and mass transfer performance of the liquid metal based gas scrubber. The pilot unit of the hot gas scrubber has been designed and fully constructed. The high temperature gas cleaning facility is ready for commissioning.