This paper addresses the issues related to the favorable operating conditions for the small-scale production of synthesis gas from the catalytic partial oxidation of methane over rhodium. Numerical simulations were performed by means of computational fluid dynamics to explore the key factors influencing the yield of synthesis gas. The effect of mixture composition, pressure, preheating temperature, and reactor dimension was evaluated to identify conditions that favor a high yield of synthesis gas. The relative importance of heterogeneous and homogenous reaction pathways in determining the distribution of reaction products was investigated. The results indicated that there is competition between the partial and total oxidation reactions occurring in the system, which is responsible for the distribution of reaction products. The contribution of heterogeneous and homogeneous reaction pathways depends upon process conditions. The temperature and pressure play an important role in determining the fuel conversion and the synthesis gas yield. Undesired homogeneous reactions are favored in large reactors, and at high temperatures and pressures, whereas desired heterogeneous reactions are favored in small reactors, and at low temperatures and pressures. At atmospheric pressure, the selectivity to synthesis gas is higher than 98% at preheating temperatures above 900 K when oxygen is used as the oxidant. At pressures below 1.0 MPa, alteration of the dimension in the range of 0.3 and 1.5 mm does not result in significant difference in reactor performance, if made at constant inlet flow velocities. Air shows great promise as the oxidant, especially at industrially relevant pressure 3.0 MPa, thereby effectively inhibiting the initiation of undesired homogeneous reactions.
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