The crucial environmental issue due to fossil fuel use in our society and industries and more and more perceived by the communities is stimulating the development of innovative technologies with the scope of reducing GHGs and pollutants emissions, improving plants efficiency and exploiting renewable energy sources. The idea proposed in the present work links this context: a novel hybrid plant for the production of a mixture of methane and hydrogen (20%vol), called enriched-methane, from a steam reforming reactor whose heat duty is supplied by a concentrating solar power (CSP) plant by means of a molten salt stream is here conceived, modelled and assessed. The enriched-methane mixture can be applied in methane internal combustion engines (ICE) reducing CO, CO2, unburned emissions and improving engine efficiency. Moreover, the residual sensible heat of solar-heated molten salt stream can be used to generate medium-pressure steam and to produce electricity by a steam-turbine. Therefore, the plant proposed is co-generative, producing both hydrogen and electricity from a solar source. The behaviour of methane steam reforming reactor is simulated by means of a 2D mathematical model and the design of a cogenerative solar plant is proposed, evaluating its potentialities in terms of MWh of electricity produced and number of vehicles fed by enriched-methane. A single CSP module (surface requirement = 1.5 hectares) coupled with a 4-tubes-and-shell shaped reactor is able to produce 686 tons/year of hydrogen, equivalent to 3.430 tons/year of 20%vol H2-CH4 mixture and 3.097 MWh/year of clean electricity.

Martin Svoboda