Hydrogen and methane selectivity during alkaline supercritical water gasification of biomass with ruthenium-alumina catalyst

Jude A. Onwudili*, Paul T. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ruthenium supported on alpha-alumina spheres has been employed as a catalyst for the gasification of glucose and other biomass-related samples in supercritical water at 550°C, 36MPa, in a batch Inconel reactor. Most of the reactions were conducted in the presence of alkaline additives particularly sodium hydroxide and calcium oxide (hydroxide). In general, over 96% carbon gasification efficiencies (CGE) were achieved in the presence of Ru/Al2O3, while hydrogen gasification efficiencies (HGE) based on result-derived reaction stoichiometries reached 87% for glucose. Both HGE and CGE approached 100% for the sodium carboxylates. Without alkaline additives, Ru/Al2O3 converted glucose into gas product with average yields of 10.8mol hydrogen/(kg of glucose), 8.6mol methane/(kg of glucose) and 17mol carbon dioxide/(kg of glucose), while carbon monoxide and C2-C4 hydrocarbons made up only 1mol//(kg of glucose). However, when the ruthenium catalyst was used in combination with sodium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide, the selectivity towards hydrogen gas increased, with the complete removal of carbon dioxide. Similar yields of hydrogen (14.7mol/kg of glucose) and methane (12.8mol/kg of glucose) were obtained with CaO and Ru/Al2O3. Reactions of sodium carboxylates (formate and acetate) suggested that the ruthenium catalyst was capable of catalyzing the Sabatier reversible reaction in both the forward and backward directions. The yield of each gas was found to be dependent on the concentrations of methane, hydrogen and carbon dioxide in the reactor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-79
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Catalysis B: Environmental
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2013


  • Biomass
  • Catalytic hydrothermal gasification
  • Hydrogen
  • Methane
  • Sabatier reaction


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