A molten carbonate electrolysis cell (MCEC) is capable of separating carbon dioxide from methane reformate while simultaneously electrolyzing water. Methane reformate, for this study, primarily consists of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane, and a high percentage of water. Carbon dioxide is required for the operation of a MCEC since a carbonate ion is formed and travels from the reformate channel to the sweep gas channel. In this study, a spatially resolved physical model was developed to simulate an MCEC in a novel hybrid reformer electrolyzer purifier (REP) configuration for high purity hydrogen production from methane and water. REP effectively acts as an electrochemical CO2 purifier of hydrogen.
In order to evaluate the performance of REP, a dynamic MCEC stack model was developed based upon previous high temperature molten carbonate fuel cell modeling studies carried out at the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine. The current model is capable of capturing both steady state performance and transient behavior of an MCEC stack using established physical models originating from first principals. The model was first verified with REP experimental data at steady state which included spatial temperature profiles. Preliminary results show good agreement with experimental data in terms of spatial distribution of temperature, current density, voltage, and power. The combined effect of steam methane reformation (SMR) and water electrolysis with electrochemical CO2 removal results in 96% dry-basis hydrogen at the cathode outlet of the MCEC. Experimental measurements reported 98% dry-basis hydrogen at the cathode outlet.