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Honeywell and ZoneFlow Reactor Technology to collaborate on more efficient SMR for hydrogen production

Honeywell and ZoneFlow Reactor Technologies (ZFRT) announced a joint agreement to commercialize ZoneFlow Reactor Technology. This technology promises to provide a step-change improvement in the efficiency and carbon intensity of steam methane reforming for the production of hydrogen.

When coupled with Honeywell H2 Solutions’ carbon capture for hydrogen production, the ZoneFlow technology will make low-carbon hydrogen production from natural gas more efficient and less expensive.

The ZoneFlow Reactor is a structured catalyst module that replaces conventional catalyst pellets in SMR tubes, and provides superior heat transfer and pressure drop performance.


(Left) A single catalyst casing element consisting of six rows of blades, and (right) five stacked casing elements. The annular casing is made of sectors with blades guiding the flow either towards or away from the tube wall. Radial fins separate partially the sectors, except in the near-wall region where small openings allow flow in between adjacent sectors. The flow impinging the tube wall is accompanied by a local increase of turbulence due to rapid changes in velocity magnitude and direction in the near-wall region. This results in improved heat transfer between the process gas and the tube wall. Minette et al.

ZoneFlow Reactor Technologies has established the heat transfer and pressure drop properties of ZF Reactors, relative to conventional catalyst pellets, through rigorous experimental testing that has been reported in Chemical Engineering Journal.

Simulations of steam methane reformers with ZF Reactors and pellets, using Aspen process software, reactor and reaction models developed by Prof. Juray De Wilde (Materials and Process Engineering Dept., Université Catholique de Louvain, co-author with Prof. Gilbert Froment of Chemical Reactor Analysis and Design, 3rd Edition (Wiley)), and SMR cost data, were then used to compare the efficiency (including level of carbon emissions) and cost of ZF Reactors and conventional catalyst pellets.

Honeywell’s UOP and ZFRT will cooperate in conducting reactive testing in ZFRT’s large-scale pilot plant at Université Catholique de Louvain in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

The reactive testing will validate the expected 15% increase in throughput over conventional catalyst pellet systems. Results from the pilot plant testing are expected to be available by mid-2022.

We see the ZoneFlow Reactor Technology as a major breakthrough in steam methane reforming. The much higher throughput possible with the ZoneFlow Reactors will mean significant capital savings for new SMR plants and higher productivity for existing plants. The additional opportunity to reduce the steam requirements to the steam methane reforming process will reduce its energy demands and overall impact on plant CO2 emissions.

—Laura Leonard, vice president and general manager, Honeywell UOP Process Technologies


  • Florent Minette, Luis Calamote de Almeida, Sanjiv Ratan, Juray De Wilde (2021) “Pressure drop and heat transfer of ZoneFlowTM structured catalytic reactors and reference pellets for Steam Methane Reforming,” Chemical Engineering Journal, Volume 417, 2021, 128080, ISSN 1385-8947, doi: 10.1016/j.cej.2020.128080



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