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Biomethane production by adsorption technology: new cycle development, adsorbent selection and process optimization

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Gas separation by adsorption processes such as pressure swing adsorption (PSA) presents an attractive alternative for upgrading biogas to biomethane. A new vacuum pressure swing adsorption (VPSA) cycle is proposed for a unit designed to purify pre-cleaned biogas (40% CO2 and 60% CH4) in industrial conditions (feed flow rate more than 500 Nm3/h and large-volume equipment). The process simulations performed to optimize the VPSA unit consider the kinetic separation of the feed components by using an appropriate carbon molecular sieve (CMS) adsorbent having a high kinetic separation selectivity for CO2 with respect to CH4. The designed VPSA unit is composed of five columns that perform three equalization steps. Minimizing methane losses during the regeneration steps necessitates injecting part of the off-gas rich in CO2 at the bottom of the column during the production step to push the CH4 forward. The produced biomethane meets the specification (97% CH4) of grid injection purity. The developed cycle allows a CH4 recovery of 92% to be obtained with a specific energy consumption of 0.35 kWh/Nm3, thus meeting the initial requirements for industrial exploitation of VPSA technology for biomethane purification from biogas sources.

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The authors are grateful to Air Liquide for financial support.

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Correspondence to Francois Puel.

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Chouikhi, N., Brandani, F., Pullumbi, P. et al. Biomethane production by adsorption technology: new cycle development, adsorbent selection and process optimization. Adsorption 26, 1275–1289 (2020).

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