Industrial Catalysis

Case study - steam reforming

In this section we use the case study of steam reforming to illustrate some of the factors that chemists must consider when designing an effective catalyst for an industrial process.

What is steam reforming?

Steam reforming is the process by which methane, and other hydrocarbons in natural gas, are converted into hydrogen and carbon monoxide by reaction with steam over a nickel catalyst on a ceramic support.

CH4 + H2O

CO + 3H2

DH = +251 kJmol-1

The hydrogen and carbon monoxide are used as feedstock for other industrial processes. Carbon monoxide, for example, is used in the synthesis of methanol. Use the areas below to find out more about the different areas of steam reforming.

Steam reformer - the mixture usually passes into a second, hotter furnace.