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Waste-stream based power balancing plants with high efficiency, high flexibility and power-to-X capability

Based on existing future energy and sustainability scenarios, the project should identify:

  • What low-grade waste streams will likely remain available in the long term and
  • What processes could be suitable to transform them inside Solid Oxide Cell membrane reactors into fuel for power generation or feedstock for power-based chemicals and fuels.

To reach economic viability, such plants need to integrate the usually energy consuming waste preparation steps tightly into the different operating modes. Flow sheeting including pinch analysis provide a base for selection of optimised solutions in terms of electrical efficiency and/or flexibility in use for the provision of grid services. The analysis performed should clearly identify the requirements of the integration into a RES dominated power generation landscape. Economic viable paths to reach power scales both meaningful for the waste conversion and power balancing are to be elaborated. Analysis should be performed on what size of balancing plant is suitable both based on available waste stream and the propriety of a RES electricity supply. From there, the economic requirements in terms of investment costs for such a plant have to be estimated to define the conditions for business cases. A pathway for a gradual integration of such plants based on today’s State of the Art is to be elaborated. The small size of the current stacks and systems likely requires a modular up-scale approach. Supply chain constraints of the first commercial products are important boundaries. Experiences and learning curves from other modular industries e.g. the semi-conductor industry can be used as reference cases to understand under what conditions such a new industry could emerge.

The project should:

  • Identify the long-term available low-grade waste streams;
  • Elaborate RES Integrated large Power Balancing Plant Designs/flowsheets with Solid Oxide technologies at the core for the scales of 1, 10, 100 MW and 1 GW. The conversion plants integrate directly waste preparation process on both thermal and electrical level;
  • Suggest development paths and strategies for Solid Oxide Cell power plants from current small-scale technologies and products;
  • Identify technical bottlenecks at any level (materials, components, systems, externals such as CCU limitation) that need to be resolved for realising such plants and suggest possible measures;
  • Elaborate under what conditions centralised large scale power conversion plants can be technically and economically realised within the next 10 years;

The technical readiness level will remain on the same level during the project (TRL 2), as conceptual engineering work is in focus rather than experimental work. However, the work goes clearly beyond a conventional study as new concepts are to be elaborated on the technical level, making use of thermodynamic simulation tools and methods such as pinch analysis.
Any safety-related event that may occur during execution of the project shall be reported to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) dedicated mailbox, which manages the European hydrogen safety reference database, HIAD.
Test activities should collaborate and use the protocols developed by the JRC Harmonisation Roadmap (see section 3.2.B ""Collaboration with JRC – Rolling Plan 2018""), in order to benchmark performance of components and allow for comparison across different projects.

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution of EUR 0.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
A maximum of 1 project may be funded under this topic.
Expected duration: 18 months.

Renewable energy sources are significantly reshaping the energy production scheme in Europe. Today’s still dominating fossil fuels will be significantly reduced in their role as electricity source. Despite this, carbon containing renewable primary energy in form of industrial and municipal waste, secondary and tertiary biomass, or even waste discharge recovery sites will remain available in significant amounts. Those waste streams can be converted through various processes into syngas containing hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide in varying quantities. The flexibility of Solid Oxide membrane reactors to operate both in electrolyser and fuel cell mode offers the possibility to exploit those streams both to convert electricity into gas and to convert the streams directly into electricity. Balancing power plants can and play an important role for both power generation in low production periods and grid stabilisation and energy storage through their power-to-gas capability. They also offer a potential low-cost source for renewable CO2.
The challenge addresses the elaboration of concepts (process flow diagrams) for power balancing plant based on the thermal integration of various gasification processes and Solid Oxide membrane reactors. Both the waste-to-syngas process and the solid oxide membrane reactor operate at elevated temperatures and offer thereby possibilities of synergies for H2 or CO2 out-coupling, use of O2 enriched air for gasification and thermal coupling are available. The aim is to provide high energy system benefits in the evolving energy landscape, making use of the carbon containing waste streams for the simultaneous application of power generation and energy storage in a single balancing plant. The plants both contribute to the elimination/transformation of municipal waste, industrial waste, waste disposal site recovery and the balancing of the electricity grid. This kind of plants are closing one gap in the circular economy.

The project will provide paths for the techno-economic viability for the deployment of centralized large-scale Solid Oxide plants to buffer the power needs emerging from intermittent and fluctuating RES and offer power storage options in renewable carbon- based chemicals and fuels.
Power conversion plant designs integrating required waste preparation steps (various gasification processes, alternative purification processes) will prepared.
System management and operating strategies integrating partial/peak loading fluctuations amplitudes and frequencies will be recommended.

The outcome of successful project should lay ground towards technological development to address a large market for Solid Oxide reactors in conjunction with RES and the possibilities of providing power storage in synthetic fuels and providing renewable CO2 for further use. The technical concepts elaborated should provide pathways for a faster transition towards a RES dominated energy system at lower overall costs.

Type of action: Research and Innovation Action
The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter 3.3 and in the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018– 2020 which apply mutatis mutandis.