Water-selective membrane reactors are proposed in the literature to improve methanol yield for a standalone reactor. However, the methanol productivity is not a precise metric to show the system improvement since, with this approach, we do not consider the amount of energy loss through the undesirable co-permeation of H2, which could otherwise remain on the reaction side at high pressure. In other words, the effectiveness of this new technology should be evaluated at a process flowsheet level to assess its advantages and disadvantages on the overall system performance and, more importantly, to identify the minimum required properties of the membrane. Therefore, an equation-based model for a membrane reactor, developed in Aspen Custom Modeler, was incorporated within the process flowsheet of the methanol plant to develop an integrated process framework to conduct the investigation. We determined the upper limit of the power-saving at 32% by exploring the favorable conditions wherein a conceptual water selective membrane reactor proves more effective. Using these suboptimal conditions, we realized that the minimum required H2O/H2 selectivity is 190 and 970 based on the exergy analysis and overall power requirement, respectively. According to our results, the permselectivity of membranes synthesized for this application in the literature, showing improvements in the one-pass conversion, is well below the minimum requirement when the overall methanol synthesis process flowsheet comes into consideration.
Keywords: Aspen Custom Modeler; CO2 hydrogenation; carbon capture; carbon utilization; green fuel; membrane reactor; methanol synthesis; synthetic fuel.