Skip to main content

Synthesis of methanol from captured carbon dioxide using surplus electricity

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - MefCO2 (Synthesis of methanol from captured carbon dioxide using surplus electricity)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-06-30

Aim: develop an innovative green chemical production technology contributing to the EU objectives of decreasing CO2 emissions and increasing renewable energy usage improving Europe’s competitiveness.
Concept: ordinarily emitted CO2 and H2 produced from surplus renewable electricity into methanol. Technology designed in a modular intermediate-scale, able to adapt it to varying plant sizes and gas composition.
-Mitigation of exhaust CO2 and reduction of GHG by replacing methanol produced from fossil fuels (NGV or coal) with methanol produced from 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 surpluses can be used to produce valuable methanol. Fast ramping electrolysers provide ancillary services and replace fast acting fossil generation such as gas turbines.
-Production of methanol as a versatile chemical for further conversion. The EU is a net importer of methanol and MefCO2 results contribute to the reduction of imports. Low carbon footprint methanol can be directly blended with gasoline or transformed into fuel additives (DME or MTBE),reducing fossil fuel imports and improving air quality due to the improved combustion. Depending on the CO2 source, MefCO2 low carbon methanol and fuel derivatives could comply with the RED requirements and be considered as renewable fuel of non-biological origin.
Conclusions: the technology has been successfully deployed at RWEs lignite fired power plant in Germnay producing up to 1 ton of methanol from1.5 tons of CO2 captured. MefCO2 technology can be adapted to any CO2 source either from fossil origin such as steel mills, cement kilns, refineries, power plants, etc. Key components of the pilot process were a fast acting PEM 600kW electrolyser able to ramp up or down H2 production within seconds. This flexible operation is highly suited to adapt to power prices created by fluctuating renewable power and for grid stabilisation contributing to the increase of renewable power in the grid. A fast response rectifier patent was filed. Other key component is a methanol reactor able to modify its output (demonstrated in test campaigns). Unlike standard chemical process designed for steady operation, MefCO2 reactor was steadily operated not only at its nameplate capacity but also at 40% of it. It was able to ramp up and down production within minutes. The modular reactor design can be scaled up and plant output can be adapted. The combination of fast ramping a electrolysis unit and a flexible methanol reactor allows MefCO2 concept to operate without oversizing the electrolysis unit and using intermediate H2 storage that would be required in a conventional methanol plant. Methanol produced from renewable energy for H2 production turns into an energy vector for renewable energy storage with higher energy density than H2 that is easily stored and transported. In terms of novel catalyst development and process optimisation through multiscale process optimisation, a comprehensive work was carried out. More than 100 catalysts were synthetized, characterised and tested in different operation conditions. A patent for a new method of synthesis for high performance catalyst was filed.
Pilot Plant:Methanol production: 1t day/CO2 capture: 1.5t day/PEM electrolyser 600kWel with improved dynamic response: 120 m3/h
Test campaign under flexible operation conditions:Conversion efficiency exceeding the design criteria: 97% vs 91% (55 kg Crude MeOH/h)/Dynamic Operation performance improving design criteria: 40%/min. vs 20%/min (Loop reaction time from 5 to less than 3 minutes)/Flexible Operation demonstrated.
LCA&Thermo-economic analysis:Net emissions of methanol production are 68% lower than SMR’s process when wind power is used but using German grid power results into a more than 2x increase/Business case supported on simulations for technology scale-up
Novel catalysts & overall process engineering improved:More than 60 catalysts synthesised and tested/Patent Pending GB1701382.2 – Catalyst suitable for methanol synthesis/Several scientific publications
Business Plan and Technology Roadmap: Technology packages defined as the minimum exploitable unit/Technology value proposition and commercialisation channels defined/Market potential and dynamics analysis/Identification of market segments identified and go to market strategies
-Technological impacts
Starting from a commercial (Cu/ZnO/Al2O3) catalysts, a new generation of catalysts with increased activity and selectivity, able to deal with impurities in CO2 streams such as the flue gases from a power plant generation were developed. Process integration: extensive work carried out in order to integrate CC with methanol synthesis to optimise energy consumption of the process. Advanced control system developed to provide flexibility to a process that needs to encompass both methanol synthesis with the normal operation of a power generation plant and H2 production using variable renewable generation (strongly dependent on energy prices&grid requirements). Thermo-economic analysis carried including a sensitivity analysis for key variables such as electrolyser CAPEX, electricity price or the price of oxygen obtained as a by-product.

-Economic/Social impacts
Flexible operation of the plant allows to maximise renewable energy use and provide valuable ancillary services. Thus renewable energy curtailment can be minimised and the TSO/DSO may be able to operate the grid more efficiently. Low carbon methanol produced using MefCO2 technology contribute to the decarbonisation of transport as PowerToLiquid technology is an indirect electrification pathway of transport. Direct blending of methanol with gasoline in the EU-28 is currently much lower than the 3% v/v limit set in the FQD directive. Methanol can be used for biodiesel production helping to reduce its CO2 footprint by substituting fossil methanol normally used. DME or MTBE can also be produced from low carbon methanol as well as methanol for bunker fuel or used in Methanol to olefins or methanol to gasoline pathways. 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 5.3-9. Job creation is estimated bw 750 and 1200 jobs per plant.

-Environmental impacts
MefCO2 pilot plant use 1.5t/day CO2 to produce 1t/d of methanol. Scaling up MefCO2 concept can offset significant amounts of CO2 since methanol is one of the most versatile chemicals and its demand is high. 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% limit set in the regulation. Green methanol could not only contribute reaching the 14% target of renewable fuels use in transportation by 2030. 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.
MefCO2 - Logo
MefCO2 process
MefCO2 pilot plant completed