A method for controlling the sulfur dioxide partial pressure in a pressurized, heated, oxygen-containing gas mixture which is contacted with an ion-conducting metallic oxide membrane which permeates oxygen ions. The sulfur dioxide partial pressure in the oxygen-depleted non-permeate gas from the membrane module is maintained below a critical sulfur dioxide partial pressure, p.sub.SO2 *, to protect the membrane material from reacting with sulfur dioxide and reducing the oxygen flux of the membrane. Each ion-conducting metallic oxide material has a characteristic critical sulfur dioxide partial pressure which is useful in determining the required level of sulfur removal from the feed gas and/or from the fuel gas used in a direct-fired feed gas heater.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
This invention was made with government support under Contract No. DE-FC26-98FT40343 between Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. and the U.S. Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights to this invention.