SMR Similarities between Hydrogen, Ammonia, and Methanol plants

Date Published:   04/13/2020

In this article, we will show that a steam methane reformer (SMR) is critical in the production processes of hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol; as all three use the raw syngas produced by an SMR upstream in their synthesis.


Syngas Production

In what is called steam methane reforming, high-temperature steam (700°C–1,000°C) is used to produce raw syngas from a methane source, typically natural gas. Using a steam methane reformer (SMR), methane reacts with steam under 3–25 bar of pressure in the presence of a catalyst to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide. The resulting gas mixture is called synthesis gas, or syngas for short; and is the raw ingredient in hydrogen production, ammonia synthesis, and methanol synthesis.


Hydrogen Production

Subsequently, in what is called the "water-gas shift reaction," raw syngas and steam are reacted using a catalyst to produce carbon dioxide and more hydrogen. In a final process step called "pressure-swing adsorption," carbon dioxide and other impurities are removed from the gas stream, leaving essentially pure hydrogen.


Ammonia Synthesis

Ammonia is produced at an industrial scale through the synthesis of nitrogen and hydrogen in an ammonia synthesis loop in what is called the Haber-Bosch process. The hydrogen and nitrogen are mixed at a 3:1 ratio.

In most processes the reaction takes place on an iron catalyst. The reaction pressure is normally in the range of 150 to 250 bar‚ and temperatures are in the range of 350°C to 550°C.

Generally speaking, an ammonia plant will have feed purification, a primary and secondary SMR, water-shift converter, carbon dioxide removal, methanation, and finally an ammonia synthesis section.

For a more in-depth view, please find our ammonia article below:


Methanol Synthesis                   

Methanol is produced by reacting carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide with hydrogen using a methanol synthesis loop. It processes raw syngas made from a SMR and gas recycled from the secondary reformer in the presence of a zinc / copper catalyst. The partially reformed gas stream from the primary reformer is sent to the secondary reformer where it is reacted with oxygen and most of the remaining methane converted to synthesis gas, which is called recycle gas and is sent back to the primary reformer for processing.

A standard methanol plant consists of the following process section: feed purification, steam reforming, syngas compression, methanol synthesis (conversion/reaction) and methanol distillation.

Please find a more detailed explanation of methanol production in our article below:



Syngas is a key feedstock in the production of hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol. Almost all of this syngas is produced by a steam-methane reformer (SMR), so regardless if you’re planning to build a hydrogen, ammonia, or methanol plants -- SMRs are the heart of the facility. Furthermore, due to the inherent similarities between ammonia synthesis loops, and methanol synthesis loops, engineering firms have successfully converted ammonia plants into methanol plants, and methanol plants into ammonia plants. So, there are multiple path to save on capital costs by purchasing a used plant.


Link to Syngas/Hydrogen Plants:

Link to Ammonia Plants:

Link to Methanol Plants:


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