The Linde Group officially opened the new Linde Pilot Reformer research facility at Pullach near Munich – Linde’s largest location worldwide.

Linde has invested approximately €5m in total to expand Pullach’s research and development capacity. The Linde Pilot Reformer will be used to refine steam reforming technology for the production of synthesis gas – a mixture consisting of hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO). The carbon feedstock for synthesis gas can be in the form of natural gas, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), naphtha or even carbon dioxide (CO2).

“Inventiveness and innovation are ingrained in Linde’s DNA. The official opening of the pilot reformer provides further proof of our customer-centric approach to development and sends a strong signal confirming Germany’s role as an innovation hub,” commented Dr. Wolfgang Büchele, CEO of Linde AG.

“Linde intends to use this pilot facility to test and optimise all kinds of approaches to reforming. The insights we gain will help us further improve reforming processes and concepts for our customers,” adds Dr. Christian Bruch, Member of the Executive Board of Linde AG and responsible for Technology and Innovation as well as the Engineering Division.

As part of the R&D strategy, Linde has invested into and constructed a pilot facility to test the dry-reforming technology. Linde is using the facility to run tests in the area of reforming technology. The insights and learning will be used to develop and establish new reforming processes as well as for testing new concepts.

Tests in the pilot reformer are currently focused on the dry reforming. This innovative process was developed by Linde in cooperation with its partners BASF and hte (responsible for catalyst development), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology / KIT (responsible for simulations) and DECHEMA (supplier of materials). The pilot project has been awarded funding by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) of just under €1m.

The production of synthesis gas (a mixture of H2 and CO) through dry reforming of natural gas means that carbon dioxide (CO2) can be used on an industrial scale as an economical feedstock. The process is also significantly more energy efficient than the conventional method of reforming. The synthesis gas can be used to produce valuable downstream products such as base chemicals or fuels.

One such example is dimethyl ether (DME). The DME produced through dry reforming offers an improved energy balance and lower CO2 emissions.

The dry reforming process also offers cost efficiencies relative to partial oxidation – the conventional method used up to now to produce CO-rich synthesis gases. These would be of particular interest to small and medium-sized plants.

If the dry reforming pilot proves successful, there are plans to commercialise the process when the funded project comes to an end in 2017 and build a reference plant for a Linde customer.