Plasma Fuel Reformers Generate Syngas (H2+CO)

Plasma reformer technology is emerging as a fundamental building block of clean energy, able to convert multiple carbon-based fuel sources into a clean H2+CO gas called Syngas. Syngas which can be used in many ways, including:

Plasma Reformer Producing Syngas

Easily Engineered

Plasma reformers can be easily engineered to the size of a coffee thermos or as large as needed based on the application. This expands the usability into vehicles or scaled up into industrial applications.

Plasma Reformer Inner View

Inexpensive Materials

Plasma reformers are clean energy systems that do not require expensive metals to produce or operate so the manufacturing costs are extremely low when compared to other emission control systems.

Plasma Reformer Reaction Zone

Low Power Requirements

Operate plasma reformers using on-board power or with a single solar panel as wattage can be kept under 100 watts. Maintain total control of the reaction zone with cutting edge technologies for dynamic optimization.

Plasma Reformers Integrate With Mature Technologies

With so many applications of the technology at hand, plasma reformers are on their way to becoming the next breakout energy device implemented around the world. It is possible that every combustion engine will eventually employ a plasma reformer, as a means of maximizing their embodied value while ensuring cleaner, greener operation. The most popular technologies to integrate to include:

Stationary Power System

Combustion Engines

Stationary Power Systems are subject to increasingly stringent regulations regarding allowable emissions, and current emissions controls are expensive to implement. Plasma reformers are proven to reduce several emissions in a single application (including NOx, HC, CO and PM).

By eliminating consumables like DEF, a return on investment can be attained in a relatively short period with a plasma reformer by using Hydrogen Enhanced Combustion.

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Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Fuel Cells

Purity of input fuel is key to fuel cells and feedstock can be cleaned into syngas by using a plasma reformer. Having commercial grade natural gas or hydrogen run through the system poses little risk to the longevity of the cell which limits the application of the technology.

A plasma reformer is the perfect solution for fuel cells as it will clean input fuels into pure syngas before entering the fuel cell. Fuel cell companies should pay close attention to plasma reformer development which will open new markets for them.

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Fischer-Tropsch converts syngas into liquid fuels and was invented in Germany in 1925 and has constantly seen improvement since the first uses in that day. While gasification units typically power the systems today, plasma reformers are a great fit towards a more modular and possibly even semi-mobile state.

Imagine a military convoy transporting in a mobile unit and hooking up to a secure wellhead to feed the reformer and generate valuable diesel fuel - at the mobile base.

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Plasma Reformers Can Integrate With Emerging Technologies

Syngas can be separated to provide pure H2 to technologies that need a source of hydrogen on-site and on-demand which removes the hydrogen storage challenges that some technologies face. For example, H2-SCR is much more effective with a source of on-board hydrogen since running out of hydrogen (using storage) would negate the entire emission control system. As well, plasma reformers can extend the usefulness of flow batteries to work beyond storage, but also production of electricity on or off-grid where fuels can be converted.


The standard method to reduce NOx in diesel engines is by injection urea-based DEF fluid into a SCR system which breaks apart the oxygen and Nitrogen which are both inert on their own but damaging while together. While this has been adopted as best practice, there are some challenges that we face in having the fluid freeze and at times run out. Will the engine run without it and continue to pollute?

H2-SCR promises to solve these problems - depending on where engineers plan to obtain their hydrogen. The idea of H2-SCR is to mimic the success of the current SCR systems but instead of storing fluid, engineers would create a method in which the fluid is rendered dynamically - or generated on-demand by using plasma reformers.

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HBr Flow Battery

A Hydrogen Bromine Flow Battery is rechargeable and reacts liquid bromine with hydrogen gas to generate electricity. The battery has no membrane which is the most expensive component of fuel cells and other batteries as it relies on laminar flow to separate the two materials which reduces cost and increases battery lifetime.

While the battery is capable of being recharged on or off grid, a plasma reformer can supply needed hydrogen to the flow battery so that it can continuously generate electricity. The first such battery pumped bromine over a graphite cathode and hydrobromic acid under a porous anode, along with hydrogen gas. The device operated at room temperature with a maximum power density of 0.795 watts per square centimeter.

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Next Generation

Next generation technologies will be developed to take advantage of plasma reformers now that there is the ability to generate hydrogen on site.

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Plasma Reformers Mitigate Waste Fuels With Hydrogen Recovery

Methane, the gas produced extensively by the livestock industry worldwide, traps up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide within a 5 year period, and 72 times more within a 20 year period. Emissions of methane and natural gasses are damaging to the environment so organizations capture and pipe the gasses or flare them which results in wasted energy and emissions from the flared fuels. It is estimated (as of 2011) that global gas flaring wastes $29.8 billion dollars annually and that represents 25% of the entire natural gas market in the United States. Plasma reformers can help industry clean the gasses so that they can be consumed and turned into electricity or liquid fuels.

Wellhead Flare Gas

Flare Gas Recovery

Plasma reformers are likely the answer to the practice of flaring natural gas at drilling operations. Remote wellheads, without access to pipeline infrastructure, view well associated natural gas as an economically non-viable product, and flare it off as waste. On site power generation utilizing this resource has presented several challenges, including the emissions resulting from combustion of WAGs (well associated gasses).

Plasma reformers can bring generators utilizing WAGs into compliance by cleaning up NOx, HC, CO and PM via Hydrogen Enhanced Combustion to offset fuel and operating costs.

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Agricultural Waste

Cow Power

Agricultural waste (unused plant material & animal excrement) and organic human waste, can be placed in a digester, resulting in methane gasses which are captured and supplied to stationary power systems. As with any stationary power system, securing the permits to allow it produce power can be a challenge due to the emissions generated.

Plasma reformers meet that challenge by employing Hydrogen Enhanced Combustion to bring HC, CO, PM and NOx down to acceptable levels, which in turn allows agricultural wastes to become a renewable source of energy production.

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Municipal Solid Waste


An increasing number of landfills now capture the methane gasses that are generated by the decomposing waste they receive. Disposal of this methane has been easy in situations where industry is nearby, as the gasses can be piped and sold to a neighboring facility.

Remote landfills without the same opportunities often install stationary power systems to generate electricity, or simply flare the methane to burn it off as a waste product. In either case, plasma reformers can help. By using Hydrogen Enhanced Combustion, the methane is consumed as a low cost fuel source in clean stationary power generation that meet regulatory standards.

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Plasma Reformers Surpass Government Regulations

Plasma Reformers are poised to achieve the highest standards that regulators can enforce. The technology is so versatile that it is relevant to every combustion engine, fuel cell and Gas-to-Liquids technologies. There are boundless amounts of wasted fuels that can be converted to useable energy because of plasma reformers. As regulators raise the bar, industry will rely on plasma reformers to solve new challenges.

  • CARB has focused on NOx and continues to set new standards and deadlines for compliance.
  • The State of North Dakota has set a deadline of 2020 to eliminate all wellhead flaring in the jurisdiction of their State.
  • The European Environment Agency has set National Emission Ceilings.
  • The International Maritime Organization sets standards that apply to ships while operating in Emission Control Areas (ECA) established to limit NOx emissions.
  • While many governments defer to CARB, each one is in it's right to set their own standards.

About the Author

Daniel Wells received International recognition after being awarded the "America's Next Top Energy Innovator" Award from the Department of Energy and by winning the CTSI Defense Energy Technology 2012 Challenge by developing an energy positive emission control system including HC, CO, PM and NOx reduction.

To learn more about plasma reformers, fill out the form below to speak with Daniel.

Copyright Daniel Wells 2015.