Nitrogen rejection from landfill gas using Pressure Swing Adsorption


Landfill gas (LFG) produced from municipal solid waste substrates represents an important source of RNG and the market for its upgrade is facing significant challenges in terms of energy consumption and operating costs. To ensure higher CH4 yields and avoid its release in the atmosphere, the LFG is collected below the atmospheric pressure by the use of a vacuum pump that results in the contamination of the LFG by air and particularly N2. Most of the proposed solutions, propose a two-step separation process in which the CO2 removal takes place in the first one while N2 removal in the second. This study focuses on the removal of the N2 from a decarbonated methane stream by a four-step PSA cycle. The impact of several parameters on process performance has been investigated using numerical simulations with the aim of simplifying the unit design and operational performances. In particular we investigate the effect of the pressure at the end of the desorption step showing that it is possible to operate the cycle with the desorption pressure slightly above atmospheric one. This allows avoiding the use of a dedicated vacuum pump with, however, a penalty in the energy required.

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\(b_{i,j}^{0}\) :

Bend coefficient of component j on site I at reference temperature, (1/Pa)

ci :

Mole concentration of component i in the column, (mol/m3)

\(c_{pi}\) :

Average mole concentration of i component in the pellet, (mol/m3)

D l :

Axial dispersion coefficient, (m2/s)

D m, i :

Molecular diffusion species, i (m2/s)

D k ,i :

Knudsen diffusion of species, (m2/s)

d p :

Particle diameter, (m)

\(h_{w}\) :

Convective heat transfer coefficient at the wall, (W/m2K)

k i :

Macroporous LDF constants of species i, (1/s)

P :

Total pressure, (Pa)

P i :

Partial pressure of species i, (Pa)

\(q_{i}^{s}\) :

Saturation quantity of site i, (Nm3/kg)

T :

Temperature, (K)

T 0 :

Reference temperature, (K)

\(T_{w }\) :

Temperature of the wall, (K)

U :

Superficial velocity, (m/s)

\(\Delta H_{i}\) :

Heat of adsorption of component i, (kJ/mol)

C pg :

Calorific capacity of the g, (kJ/mol K)

C ps :

Calorific capacity of the solid, (kJ/mol K)

ε b :

Interparticle void fraction of bed

ε p :

Pellet void fraction

\(\Delta H_{i,j}\) :

Activation energy of species j on site i, (kJ/mol)

\(\Delta P\) :

Linear pressure drop, (Pa/m)

λ :

Thermal conductivity of the solid particles, (W/K m)

μ :

Dynamic viscosity of the fluid, (Pa s)

ρ :

Gas density, (kg/m3)

ρ gr :

Pellet density, (kg/m3)

ρ bed :

Packed density of the bed, (kg/m3)


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The authors wish to dedicate this paper to the memory of Dr. Shivaji Sircar whose pioneering work in the field of Adsorption Science and Engineering has shaped many of the industrial gas separation applications.

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Correspondence to Federico Brandani.

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Brandani, F., Pullumbi, P. & Monereau, C. Nitrogen rejection from landfill gas using Pressure Swing Adsorption. Adsorption (2021).

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  • Nitrogen rejection
  • Pressure swing adsorption
  • Process simulation