Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


MefCO2 Report Summary

Project ID: 637016
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MefCO2 (Synthesis of methanol from captured carbon dioxide using surplus electricity)

Reporting period: 2014-12-01 to 2016-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

MefCO2 (Methanol fuel from CO2) - Synthesis of methanol from captured carbon dioxide using surplus electricity.

To develop an innovative green chemical production technology which contributes significantly to the European objectives of decreasing CO2 emissions and increasing renewable energy usage, thereby improving Europe’s competitiveness in the field.

The overall concept underpinning the project lies in the utilisation of ordinarily emitted greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and hydrogen, produced from surplus renewable electricity into a widely-useable platform chemical, methanol. The technology is being designed in a modular intermediate-scale, with the aim of being able to adapt it to varying plant sizes and gas composition.

The primary advantages of this technology shall be its flexibility, medium-scale operation (deployed “at exhaust location”), and facile integration capacities.

- Mitigation of exhaust carbon dioxide and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by replacing methanol produced from fossil fuels (natural gas or coal) with methanol produced from waste CO2 and renewable energy.
- Stabilisation of electric grid by the consumption of the electric energy at its peaks. MefCO2 allows to increase the power supplied from non-manageable renewable energy resources since generation surpluses can now be used to produce valuable methanol.
- Production of methanol as a versatile chemical for further conversion. The EU is a net importer of methanol and MefCO2 results can contribute to the reduction of imports. Moreover, methanol can be directly blended with gasoline or transformed into fuel additives such as DME or MTBE thus reducing fossil fuel imports and improving air quality due to the improved combustion. In addition, MefCO2's renewable methanol and fuel derivatives comply with the requisites set by the amendments to the RED directive and can be considered advance fuels. This characteristic allows to double count renewable methanol's energy content in order to comply with the renewable energy content in transportation fuels and the minimum advanced fuel content suggested by the EC.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The MefCO2 project is divided into 5 Work Packages with a combined duration of 48 months. During the first 18 months of the project the following tasks have been performed:

Work package 1: Catalyst synthesis, characterisation and performance.
Starting month: 1. Expected end month: 12 - Change in DoA: Real end month: 18. Status: Work finished.

Work Package 1 is divided in 3 tasks with one associated milestone each and one deliverable. WP2.1 and WP2.2 have been completed while WP2.3 will be finish in the first half of 2016.
WP1.1. Catalyst synthesis: this task involved the synthesis of material for the catalytic conversion of PURE CO2 and H2 into methanol. New materials and synthesis methods have been developed on order to provide higher CO2 conversion and selectivity to CO+CH3OH. Starting from commercial CZA (Coper/Zinc/Alumina) catalyst preparations and after reviewing the state of the art in CO2 hydrogenation research, several catalysts have been synthetized. Synthesis variations followed include:
• Different active metal loadings
• Use of different supports
• Different preparation methods (aging time, calcination, precipitation methods and reactants, etc.).
• Use of metal oxalates
• Use of different dopants
In addition, promising Ni-Ga-Si catalysts reported in the literature have been synthetized.
Milestones achieved: 92 catalysts have been synthetized (initial target 60 catalysts)

WP1.2. Catalyst characterisation: this task involved the characterization of the catalysts synthetized in WP1.1. Characterisation techniques include:
XRD X- Ray Diffraction
XAFS X Ray Absorption Fine Structure
TEM Transmission Electron Microscopy
MPAES Microwave Plasma Atomic Emission Spectroscopy
SEM Scanning Electron Microscopy
DRIFTS Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Fourier Transform
TGA Thermal Gravimetric Analysis
TPR Temperature Programmed Reduction

Milestones achieved: 60 catalysts have been characterised

WP1.3. Catalyst performance assessment: this task involved the assessment of the CO2 conversion and selectivity for CO and CH3OH of the catalysts synthetized. Performance has been tested under a flow of 30 mlmin-1, CO2:H2 (1:3), at 20 bar and 250 ⁰C (some test were conducted using different temperatures) and results were calculated after 4 hours.
Milestones achieved: 60 catalysts’s performance has been measured.

Work package 2: Effect of process conditions during continuous operation
Starting month: 7. End month: 24. Status: Work underway

Work Package 2 is divided in 3 tasks with one associated milestone each and two deliverables. Only WP2.1 and WP2.2 are underway with WP3.3 scheduled to start in the second half of 2016.
WP2.1. Process conditions: the task performed included the performance of the catalysts selected from the ones tested in WP1 ((30 for the moment). Testing is being conducted in parallel reactors (laboratory-scale reactors’ utilization that is both single-pass packed bed reactors and a packed bed reactor with recycle.) various temperatures and volumetric flow rates, hence performing a process conditions sweep in order to determine the optimal operating conditions for each one in terms of their activity & selectivity.
WP2.2. Process modelling: the task encompasses macroscopic modelling in terms of the reactor pressure drop for different packing, as well as microscopic DFT (Density Functional Theory) calculations on catalyst surfaces, especially in terms of surface adsorption and dissociation. CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) is being used to model the pressure drop and retention time distribution for different packing geometries, volumetric flow rates, reactor-to-packing ratios, etc. Some provisional KMC (Kinetic Monte Carlo) simulations runs have been executed.

Work package 3: Scale-up to industrial process and linking reactant to product sides
Starting month: 7. End month: 48. Status: Work underway.

Work Package 3 is divided in five tasks with five associated milestone each and four deliverables. Only tasks WP3.1, WP3.2, WP3.3 and some in advance work on WP3.4 have commenced while WP3.5 and WP3.6 will only start during the last year of the project. Progress has been ahead of schedule in order to prevent any delay on the permitting that could delay the construction of the plant and, consequently, the test campaign.
WP3.1. Process scale-up (including design of Lunen pilot plant): advances with the design basis have been obtained prior to the completion of the basic engineering. The thermo-economic analysis has been drafted based on data gathered from the literature and the project partners.
WP3.2. Infrastructure and plant integration: preliminary arrangement plan with the positions and connections for the all test rig owners as well as methanol storage is expected to be completed by the end of May.
WP3.3. Owner's engineering: all test rig owners have advanced designs according to planning and integration work is being underway. HAZOP work is being carried out. Permitting process is being closely monitored in order to prevent any delay.
WP3.4. Plant operation and decommissioning: test plans are being drafted.

Work package 4: Efficient grid integration of renewable energy via hydrogen production
Starting month: 7. End month: 36. Status: Work underway
This work package consists of a straightforward engineering approach that leads up to the deliverables listed below. It has been decided to deploy a novel electrolysis stack based on PEM technology, because of the following reasons:
• Minimized footprint. This was also a prerequisite given the relatively difficult access to the Steag site.
• This is the technology of choice for Multi-MW energy storage applications given
• PEM units are likely to perform better for energy surplus absorption given the wide operational range of the stack, and the lower process volume with respect to alkaline technology

The following steps of FEED have been done:

• Complete list of specifications needed for the design (P7-P3).
• P&ID's, HAZOP, SIL-evaluation, process design of equipment: conceptual engineering documents and operational hazards and safety study, requirements for safety integrity levels (P7-P3).
• Calculations for major process equipment.
• Design and specification for power transformer and rectifier.
• Electrical drawings – instrumentation and control loops.

Work package 5: Project coordination and result’s exploitation and dissemination
Starting month: 1. End month: 48. Status: Work underway

Work Package 5 is divided in five tasks with seven deliverables (four of them are coordination reports) and four milestones (progress reports). All five Work Packages have been initiated and deliverables corresponding to WP5.2 and WP5.3 have been issued.
WP5.1. Project management and coordination: this task covers the four year span of the project. Project coordinator has scheduled regular follow up meetings with all partners involved in each work package as well as specific meetings with partners tackling specific issues when needed. Face-to-face meetings involving all the project partners have taken place in Germany, Belgium and the UK. Face-to-face meetings involving partners working in an specific Work Package have also taken place. Executive board meetings are held every four months dealing with strategic topics related with the project. In addition, the project coordinator with the collaboration of the rest of the partners manages the exchange of information with the EC and has already participated in two Spire events and attended several workshops.
WP5.2. Project’s business plan: based on the data provided by the partners a preliminary business case has been developed and it will serve as the base for the commercial strategy. The business case includes an list of all potential revenue sources identified. A distinct value proposition per each client segment identified (with its specific revenue sources) has been created and a commercial strategy has been defined stating the commercial channels and the customer relationship strategy. All these items plus the evaluation of the internal capabilities of the consortium members as a whole, have allowed to complete the business model definition following the business model canvas methodology. Finally, a sales projection based on the previous assumptions has been created. As a result of the integration of all these items, a complete business plan has been created which is one of the deliverables of the project.
WP5.3. Project results and dissemination and exploitation plan: one of the main objectives of the MefCO2 project was to maximize the impact of the dissemination activities to be carried out during the project by focusing on the key stakeholders that could accelerate the deployment of the technology. Consequently, dissemination cannot be isolated from the exploitation activities. In this regard a comprehensive deliverable with the dissemination and exploitation plan has been released.
WP5.4 Exploitation of the project results: as it has been stated in the dissemination and exploitation plan, one of the main goals of the MefCO2 is to develop an economically sustainable technology since this is the most appropriate way to accelerate the deployment of the technology and, consequently to accelerate achievement of both the ambitious environmental and societal impacts expected from MefCO2 project. Though the pilot plant erection has not commenced, specific actions have already been undertaken. Industrial partners CRI and MHPS have already agreed on the creation of a joint venture for the development of turnkey power to methanol projects as envisaged in the MefCO2 project. Specific use cases are now being developed Scientific members of the consortium are evaluating the possibility of drafting a patent application to protect the most promising results obtained in WP1 which will serve as a revenue generation asset.
WP5.5 Dissemination of the project results: Dissemination activities are a joint undertaking by all the consortium members. In this regard, R&D centres and universities have already started the dissemination of the scientific results in scientific publications and congresses without compromising the IP strategy. Industrial partners have attended conferences and symposiums presenting the project to both prospective end users and policy makers. i-deals has attended several cleantech events where financial investors and, especially, industrial corporate venture units whose industrial branch belongs to the targeted segments identified. In addition, attendance to SPIRE organized events has allowed to report the progress to other H2020 teams as well as the EC representatives. MefCO2 dissemination tools also include a project video, project teasers and give-aways materials. An SPIRE hosted website provides all the information available including the video and the teasers. A new website is currently being developed and it will feature enriched audiovisual content and social media tools.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

-Technological expected impact(s)
MefCO2 aims to develop a new generation of catalysts for CO2 hydrogenation. Starting from a commercial (Cu/ZnO/Al2O3) catalysts and evolutionary approach will be followed to develop a new generation with increased activity and selectivity, able to deal with impurities in different CO2 containing streams such as the flue gases from a power plant generation. Alternatively promising Ni-Ga-Si catalysts are being considered.
Process conditions optimization is underway in order to adapt methanol synthesis to the newly developed catalysts as well as flexible operation.
In terms of process integration, extensive work is being carried out in order to integrate carbon capture with the methanol synthesis in order to optimise energy consumption of the process which can impact on the process economics. An advanced control system is being developed in order to provided flexibility to a process that needs to encompass both methanol synthesis with the normal operation of a power generation plant and hydrogen production (strongly dependent on energy prices and grid requirements).
A thermo-economic model is being developed in order to facilitate the evaluation of the performance in the whole process. The output from the model will be used for the development of a business case that will be the base for the commercial actions considered in the exploitation plan.

- Economic/Social expected impact(s)
MefCO2 aims to provide an economically sustainable business case for carbon capture (both CCS and CCU) by turning CO2 into a revenue generator that can partially compensate CCS costs and contribute to its deployment.
MefCO2’s Green methanol complies with Annex IX of the amended RED directive(Directive (EU) 2015/1513) (renewable liquid and gaseous transport fuels of non-biological origin/carbon capture and utilisation for transport purposes) and its contribution towards renewable energy use in transportation fuels is twice their energy content. Therefore, MefCO2 fuels can have a premium price over its fossil fuel methanol.
Methanol market potential in the EU could significantly increase in some applications:
Direct blending of methanol with gasoline in the EU-28 is currently much lower than the 3% v/v limit (Source: Eurostat) and nearly 2.2 Mtons/y of additional demand could be unlocked. Higher methanol blends could be possible if flex-fuel vehicles were actively promoted.
Methanol for bunker fuel, Dimethyl Ether (DME), Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether (MTBE), biodiesel and methanol to olefins/gasoline (MTO/MTG) can also increase demand.
MefCO2 results could also contribute to the reduction of the dependency on methanol imports in the EU-28. 6.3 Mtons (Directive 98/70/EC, as amended by Directive 2009/30/EC) where imported between Dec 2014-Nov 2015.
Methanol plants using MefCO2 technology can create number of direct jobs comparable to the conventional fossil-based methanol plants. Up to 120 direct jobs could be created for a high capacity plant. Indirect job creation can estimated using a multiple between 5.3 and 9. Therefore, job creation can be estimated between 750 and 1200 jobs per plant (L. Bromberg and W.K. Cheng (2010), Methanol as an alternative transportation fuel in the US: Options for sustainable and/or energy-secure transportation)
MefCO2 technologies can mitigate the risk of ‘carbon leakage’ in sensitive sectors such as the Iron & Steel or the cement sectors and consequently contribute to job preservation in emission intensive sectors.

- Environmental expected impact(s)
MefCO2 pilot plant will use over 1.5t per day CO2 and 1t per day of methanol will be produced. Scaling up MefCO2 concept can offset significant amounts of CO2 since methanol is one of the most versatile chemicals and its demand is sufficiently high. However, MefCO2 most relevant contribution to the descarbonisation of industrial processes and the energy system in the EU is that allows for a more favourable business case for CCS when CCS is coupled with green methanol production.
Green methanol can also reduce the fossil fuel consumption. Up to 1 Mtoe/year of gasoline consumption could be reduced if methanol blending reached the 3% set in the regulation. Green methanol could not only contribute to reaching the 10% target of renewable fuels use in transportation but also complying, if not exceeding, with the non binding target of 0.5% share of advanced fuels.
MefCO2 concept can also have positive impacts in terms of renewable energy use. Green methanol can act as energy vector storing renewable energy surplus thus contributing to grid stabilisation. Fast ramping electrolysers can also contribute to the grid stability by providing ancillary services which could become an additional source of revenue.

Related information

Record Number: 190432 / Last updated on: 2016-10-25