Plasma gasification experiments were conducted on sucrose and crushed macadamia nutshells. The pilot-scale plasma gasification system used comprises a 15 kW DC plasma torch fitted to a 5 L gasification reactor. The DC plasma torch has an efficiency of ~30 % with most of the energy lost in the torch anode.
For the macadamia nutshells, the plasma input-power was set at 9, 11 and 14 kW. At each power input setting, four different feed rates were investigated, namely 0.5, 0.7, 1.04 and
1.14 kg/h. It was observed that as the power increases, conversion increases from 48 % at 9 kW to higher than 80 % at 14 kW. It was also observed that higher mass feed rates increase the conversion. The lower heating values of the syngas produced during gasification increased with higher power inputs and higher feed rates. At a feed rate of 1 kg/h, the maximum calorific power value was 3.45 kW, at a torch setting of 14 kW. The highest power values obtained was slightly more than 4 kW.
The effect of equivalence ratio (ER) was evaluated on the plasma gasification of sucrose. ER values of 1 and 2 were investigated. With an ER of 1, the CO/H2 ratio was 1.8 and the CO/CO2 ratio was 109. With an ER of 2, the CO/H2 ratio was 1.73, and the CO/CO2 ratio 18. As expected, an increase in ER enhances the formation of CO2. A low ER thus results in higher syngas quality.
At equivalent conditions the homogenous, crystalline sucrose yielded a CO/CO2 ratio of 109, significantly higher than the 29 for plasma gasification of the macadamia nut shells. A contributing factor to having better quality syngas, was the smaller the average particle diameter of the sucrose, 0.4 mm, compared to the 10 mm of the crushed macadamia nut shells was. Another contributing factor could be that the available carbon in the macadamia nut shells structure are more strongly bonded than in sucrose.
For additional insight, kinetic data for the pyrolysis of sucrose, fructose and glucose were obtained using a TGA-FTIR hyphenated system, at much lower heating rates than anticipated in plasma system, and TGA-DTG experiments on macadamia nut shells. Dynamic studies were performed on sucrose, fructose and glucose at heating rates of 5, 10, 15, 20 and 50 °C/min in an atmosphere of nitrogen flowing at 50 mL/min, and for the macadamia shell at heating rates of 5, 10 and 20 °C/min in an atmosphere of nitrogen flowing at 50 mL/min. The sugars yielded 80 % to 85 % conversion into gaseous products, while the conversion of the shells approached 90 %; the residue was biochar. The FTIR spectra showed the major products that form from the pyrolysis of sugars to be CO2, H2O, along with large quantities C-H-O-containing compounds, amongst them C5H4O2 and C6H6O3. The latter two compounds are probably condensible.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2020.