This collection contains the Doctoral and Masters by Research theses produced within the department.

Recent Submissions

  • Analysis of the Utilisation of Herbaceous Biomass Streams for Small-Scale Combined Heat and Power Systems: A Comparative Study of UK and Pakistan

    Brammer, John G.; Latif, Mubashra (University of Chester, 2023-05)
    The project scope combined the author`s interest, those of her industrial research partner Biogen Systems Ltd., and those of Professor John Brammer of the University of Chester, UK. The project`s main aim was to find a cost-effective, yet sustainable strategy to upgrade the quality of low-quality herbaceous biomass streams to feed Biogen`s BCHP units without any ash-related problems such as ash melting and clinker formation. This involved pursuing a theoretical understanding and lab-scale combustion experimental investigation of the ash melting characteristics of herbaceous biomass streams of significant interest (grass cuttings, miscanthus, corn cobs, and mango stones) with different additive streams in two country locations which reflect the affiliations of the author, and which are quite different: namely Pakistan and the UK. SEM-EDS and XRD techniques were used with ternary-phase diagrams for determination of elemental and crystalline phase composition analysis of combusted ash residues. Investigations revealed that the formation of low-melting eutectic mixtures of phosphates and silicates is the primary underlying reason for ash melting of non-woody biomass streams which can be avoided by the addition of anti-sintering additives. Furthermore, eggshells can successfully replace Ca-based commercially available additives when in raw and calcined form. Another main objective of this work was to develop an Excel-base financial business model to present a framework that would improve the profitability of Biogen`s BCHP units’ deployment in the UK and Pakistan. For this, different scenarios were studied, and the effects of main logistic variables were quantified on the profitability of Biogen`s units. Results of the financial model indicate that for the UK-based operation of Biogen`s BCHP units, wood chips would serve as the most economically beneficial feedstock, followed by miscanthus pellets, while for Pakistan, waste grass pellets would be the most financially suitable feedstock, followed by corn stover pellets. Food processing companies in Pakistan can generate electricity that is cheaper than the grid-sourced power by Biogen`s E3 BCHP units by utilising on-site available free-cost fruit waste (such as corn cobs and mango waste). Accordingly, the potential contribution of this research is the elimination of the technoeconomic barriers faced by the mass-scale deployment of high-temperature biomass-fuelled thermochemical systems by identification of eggshells as a potential anti-sintering additive and investigation of the effect of cost estimates for different feedstocks for E3 operation. There is a strong need for further research to be done focusing on the gaseous emissions encompassing the utilisation of grass and its mixtures with additives and other biofuels at high-temperature thermochemical systems.
  • Hydrogen and Combined Heat and Power Production from the Steam Gasification of Plastic Wastes. An Experimental and Modelling Analysis Including Techno-Economic and Environmental Assessment

    Brammer, John; Mozafarian, Mohammadali (University of Chester, 2022-11)
    In this work a modular high temperature (850°C to 1150°C) steam gasification process (DMG®) for production of hydrogen, to be used mainly as a clean fuel in the transport system, and combined heat and power production from mixed unrecyclable plastic wastes is studied which is being developed for commercial production by Powerhouse Energy group (PHE). This includes experiments, process modelling, techno-economic and environmental assessments. Three main scenarios were defined for the process operating conditions which include production of 2 tonnes per day (TPD) hydrogen as the first scenario, the second scenario for maximum conversion of the carbon content of the feedstock to gas products, and the third scenario for the maximum hydrogen production. It should be noted that in the second scenario the maximum conversion of the carbon content of the feedstock may not be necessarily 100% conversion, or it may not be possible in a self-sustained process (in terms of energy). Therefore, this scenario is investigated to identify the possible process conditions and outputs for this scenario. An Aspen Plus model was developed for the process and was further calibrated and validated using experimental data obtained from a pilot-scale unit. The model was used for sensitivity analysis for a commercial unit with 35 TPD feed capacity based on the design capacity of the first commercial unit. The modelling results are used to define the optimum process conditions in each defined scenario. Then, each scenario was defined in the developed model for four process temperatures of 850°C, 950°C, 1050°C, and 1150°C. The results from process modelling including mass and energy balance are used for techno-economic analysis and environmental assessments. In techno-economic analysis, three approaches are considered, including fixed sale prices for all products and by-products, considering electricity sale price to domestic, and non-domestic customers, and performing economic evaluation of the process for all scenarios. In the environmental assessment two alternatives of landfilling and incineration to DMG® are defined and the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from each alternative are assessed for the same capacity and a comparison between the alternatives are made. Finally, the optimum process condition and sale strategy for the main products are suggested. Based on the results of the performed analyses, it was concluded that using the DMG® technology for production of hydrogen, electricity and heat can be economically viable and that hydrogen with a competitive sale price in compare with hydrogen produced from the available alternative technologies in the market can be produced. Also, it was concluded that DMG® has less environmental impacts in terms of GHG emissions than those from incineration, and considering the plans for banning landfilling of plastic wastes, DMG® can be a good alternative. The specific results are discussed in the result and discussion section and summarised in the conclusion chapter.
  • Experimental exploration of cryogenic CO2 capture utilising a moving bed

    Font-Palma, Carolina; Willson, Paul; Cann, David G. (University of Chester, 2021-04)
    It is widely accepted that climate change is a result of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The continued combustion of fossil fuels and subsequent emission of CO2 is leading to an increase in global temperatures, which has led to interest in decarbonising the energy sector. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a method of reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants by capturing CO2 from exhaust gases and storing it in underground gas stores. Carbon capture using chemical solvents is the most matured technology for capturing emissions from the energy sector, however as the energy sector continues to decarbonise with the arrival of renewable sources focus is shifting to other industries to reduce their carbon footprint. Solvent carbon capture has disadvantages including requiring large equipment and large amounts of heat to regenerate solvent for capture, meaning it would be difficult to scale the technology down and apply it to other industrial applications. Cryogenic carbon capture (CCC) is one proposed method of CCS at smaller scale, which captures CO2 by freezing CO2 out of the exhaust gases as CO2 forms a frost on a heat transfer surface. One disadvantage of CCC is the accumulation of CO2 frost reduces the efficiency of the capture process. The process must be periodically shut down to regenerate the heat transfer surface and collect CO2 that has been frozen out of exhaust gases. This thesis proposes to overcome the frost accumulation through the use of a moving packed bed of small spherical metal beads as the heat transfer surface. As CO2 is fed into a capture column and freezes onto the metal beads, the metal beads are removed from the column, regenerated to recover the CO2, then cooled and recirculated back into the capture column. This prevents the accumulation of frost and allows continuous CO2 capture. There are many difficulties identified in this project, primarily a lack of knowledge on CO2 frost formation and how heat transfer in a moving bed affects frost formation. The research done on a purpose built experimental rig is critical in improving the future design work of a next generation moving bed CCC system. The frost accumulation in a capture column is known as a frost front, which advanced through the capture column at a fixed velocity until the column is saturated with frost. Experimental results had shown that the frost front velocity is predictable for varying CO2 concentrations and gas flow rates, with frost front velocities between 0.46-0.78 mm/s for CO2 concentrations between 4-18% v/v and 0.36-0.98 mm/s for gas flow rates between 50-120 LPM. These frost front velocity experiments in a fixed packed bed allowed the design of a moving packed bed column to set the bed flow rate to match the frost front velocity. The moving bed experiments show that the excessive accumulation of CO2 frost within the capture column can be prevented by utilising the moving bed. The successful development of a moving bed CCC system would result in a cost effective solution to the requirements of certain smaller applications that need to capture CO2, which make up a significant portion of emissions. In particular this technology is very economical for biogas upgrading, where the CO2 content of biogas must be removed before the gas can be introduced to the UK’s larger gas network. There is also a growing interest for use in shipping and other maritime applications, capturing CO2 from ship exhaust emissions during transit.
  • An experimental and computational investigation of pressurised anaerobic digestion

    Wilkinson, Steve; Liang, Zhixuan (University of Chester, 2021-01)
    The aim of this work is to gain a greater understanding of the effect of headspace pressure on biogas production from anaerobic digestion. This is important to improve the energy content of the biogas i.e., increase the methane content and therefore reduce the need for upgrading to scrub out carbon dioxide. In addition, headspace pressure can potentially be used to provide energy for mixing and gas sparging, thereby removing the need for mechanical agitation. In this work, an existing computational model was adapted to investigate its prediction of the variation of biogas production as headspace pressure is increased above atmospheric. The simulation results were accompanied with experimental work using periodic venting of sealed laboratory bottles. The headspace pressure was inferred from the weight loss during venting to atmosphere. In addition, a fully instrumented, pressurised digestor system was designed and constructed in which headspace pressure could be measured directly. Experiments were conducted with headspace pressures of up to 3.4 barg. The biogas that accumulated in the headspace during the digestion process was sampled periodically to determine its composition. The results showed that biogas produced at higher pressures has a higher methane content. A mass balance for the headspace sampling process, which assumed no gas was released from the liquid during sampling, was compared to experimental measurements. This led to the discovery that the effective Henry’s constant for the solubility of carbon dioxide could be an order of magnitude lower in digestate than the known value for pure water. Both the adapted model and the laboratory-scale experiments showed that as the headspace pressure increases, the production rate of biogas decreases. The adapted model also gives slightly higher methane content for higher pressure. The model was then used to estimate the specific growth rates of bacteria used in the laboratory-scale experiments and the agreement was not good, which indicates further changes to the model are needed. The results show that the rate of biogas production reduces as the headspace pressure increases but the rate of decrease is not very steep. This same trend was also displayed for yeast fermentation, which was also studied as another model process for pressurised biological gas production. The variation of the rate of 𝐶𝑂2 evolution with pressure was also used to infer the concentration of dissolved 𝐶𝑂2 within the fermenting yeast cells. Finally, turning attention back to anaerobic digestion processes for energy, it is encouraging that at the relatively modest elevation of pressure required for sparging to give mixing (less than 0.5 barg), the reduction in biogas evolution is small. This small penalty might therefore be offset in a production scale system by the reduced costs of mixing and increased methane content of the biogas.
  • Using Mathematical Modelling and Electrochemical Analysis to Investigate Age‐Associated Disease

    McAuley, Mark; Morgan, Amy (University of Chester, 2019-04-02)
    People are living longer. With this rise in life expectancy, a concomitant rise in morbidity in later life is observed; with conditions including cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cancer. However, ageing and the pathogenesis of age related disease, can be difficult to study, as the ageing process is a complex process, which affects multiple systems and mechanisms. The aim of this research was two‐fold. The first aim was to use mathematical modelling to investigate the mechanisms underpinning cholesterol metabolism, as aberrations to this system are associated with an increased risk for CVD. To better understand cholesterol from a mechanistic perspective, a curated kinetic model of whole body cholesterol metabolism, from the BioModels database, was expanded in COPASI, to produce a model with a broader range of mechanisms which underpin cholesterol metabolism. A range of time course data, and local and global parameter scans were utilised to examine the effect of cholesterol feeding, saturated fat feeding, ageing, and cholesterol ester transfer protein (CETP) genotype. These investigations revealed: the model behaved as a hypo‐responder to cholesterol feeding, the robustness of the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway, and the impact CETP can have on healthy ageing. The second aim of this work was to use electrochemical techniques to detect DNA methylation within the engrailed homeobox 1 (EN1) gene promoter, which has been implicated in cancer. Hypermethylation of this gene promoter is often observed in a diseased state. Synthetic DNA, designed to represent methylated and unmethylated variants, were adsorbed onto a gold rotating disk electrode for electrochemical analysis by 1) electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS), 2) cyclic voltammetry (CV) and 3) differential pulse voltammetry (DPV). The technique was then applied to bisulphite modified and asymmetrically amplified DNA from the breast cancer cell line MCF‐7. Results indicated that electrochemical techniques could detect DNA methylation in both synthetic and cancer derived DNA, with EIS producing superiorresults. These non‐traditional techniques ofstudying age related disease were effective for the investigation of cholesterol metabolism and DNA methylation, and this work highlights how these techniques could be used to elucidate mechanisms or diagnose/monitor disease pathogenesis, to reduce morbidity in older people