Power‑to‑X activities are moving more and more into the focus of research in connection with the energy revolution, as surplus electricity from renewable energy generation can also be used for the electrochemical production of basic chemicals. The use of regenerative energies is therefore no longer limited to the electricity sector, but is also increasingly expanding to the chemical sector. The basic idea here is the substitution of molecules previously obtained from crude oil and natural gas in the chemical and refinery industries by chemically identical molecules which are obtained from CO2, water and renewable energy.
One such molecule is methanol, which is currently produced in Europe mainly by steam reforming from natural gas (production volume of 3000 t/d) and is used in a wide variety of applications, e.g. as a fuel additive, as a starting material in fuel cells or as a bulk chemical in the chemical industry. A conversion of the upstream feed streams in methanol synthesis to renewable molecules would avoid 1.53 metric tons of CO2 emissions per ton of methanol produced. However, for an economic implementation of sustainable processes, significant cost reductions for process control are necessary, which are accompanied by corresponding optimization and scaling of the individual processes and its integration. There is also a need for research in order to increase the degree of technological maturity of technologies already developed for specific applications up to a size suitable for industrial use.
Regenerative syngas production
In the "SynLink" project, the entire value chain from synthesis gas production using H2O, renewable electrical energy and CO2 (from air adsorption) to the chemo‑catalytic production of fuels to application tests of these fuels in cars and trucks is being investigated for the first time both technically and economically and demonstrated on the Fraunhofer Leuna electrolysis platform. The core element of this project is the synthesis gas production by means of Co‑SOEC (co‑solid oxide electrolyser cell with 150 KW) in order to couple renewable electrical energies into the chemical value chain. The synthesis gas is converted via methanol synthesis with increased CO2 content or Fischer‑Tropsch synthesis. The raw product produced is further refined via various refining steps to produce e‑fuels.
Within this project, Fraunhofer CBP is working on the further development of methanol synthesis from CO2‑rich synthesis gas, first on a laboratory scale (TRL 3) and further scaled‑up to a pilot plant (TRL 6). The integration of the Co‑SOEC process with the methanol pilot plant will be carried out and its technological feasibility tested. Sample quantities of up to 500 liters are to be made available for application testing.