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From industrial CO2 streams to added value Fischer-Tropsch chemicals

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ICO2CHEM (From industrial CO2 streams to added value Fischer-Tropsch chemicals)

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2020-09-30

The industry sector remains as one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, especially CO2. The aim of the ICO2CHEM project is to develop a new production concept for converting waste CO2 to value added chemicals. By reutilization, the value of CO2 is attempted to add in order to turn it to a commodity for a new generation of synthetic chemicals and fuels that will replace their fossil-based counterparts. ICO2CHEM specifically addresses a possible Carbon Capture and Utilization pathway by catalytically converting CO2 into chemicals.

In the ICO2CHEM demonstration plant, CO2 is transformed into precursors of consumer products and fuels. These are going towards what is called the circular economy with carbon neutral emissions. Within ICO2CHEM, a containerized chemical demonstration plant is installed and operated at the Infraserv Höchst Industrial Park in Frankfurt, Germany. The demonstration plant converts CO2 from a biogas upgrading plant and industrial H2, a by-product of a chloro-alkali electrolyser plant, into highly valuable white oils and high molecular weight Fischer-Tropsch (FT) waxes.

The technological core of the project consists of a Reverse Water Gas Shift (RWGS) reactor followed by an innovative modular Fischer-Tropsch reactor. In the RWGS step CO2 and H2 is converted into a synthesis gas mixture. This synthesis gas is converted into the chemical products in the following FT reaction step. The FT reactor is loaded with a novel Co-based catalyst with enhanced selectivity and lifetime developed by VTT. Altana analyses the utilization of the products in existing and new consumer products. For instance, the white oils and wax emulsions is utilized as raw material for chemical products, such as coatings and sealant materials, and the properties of the raw material are benchmarked against the fossil-based material currently in use. ICO2CHEM not only aims to develop a novel feasible CO2 economic route but also to gain further knowledge about the entire process as well as the FT catalyst.
During the first period, the work focused on the preparation of the demonstration run, which takes place at Industrial Park Höchst in Frankfurt. In the demonstration, the whole production chain from industrial raw materials (CO2 and H2) via syngas to FT products is demonstrated in a mobile synthesis unit (MOBSU). To achieve this target the process design to define the battery limits, feed gases and utilities are in essential role. The safety analysis for MOBSU was finished by INERATEC and Infraserv. During the second period an official environmental permit was required and obtained to operate the demonstration plant at Höchst. Plant installations were carried out, but the plant acceptance by an approved inspection agency is needed before the demonstration run can be started.

For Fischer-Tropsch reaction to take place, CO2 needs to be converted to CO. During the first period INERATEC designed and built the first version of an RWGS reactor. Development work was continued during the second period and an advanced RWGS reactor was integrated to the MOBSU.

Catalyst development was necessary to achieve the desired products and utilize enhanced heat transfer properties of the INERATEC microstructure FT reactor. The development work at VTT was based on a conventional cobalt catalyst recipe modified with several different methods. The target in catalyst development was to produce catalyst with high intrinsic activity and selectivity towards heavy hydrocarbons (i.e. α-value). Those qualities were pursued by adding promoters by traditional incipient wetness method and atomic layer deposition. The suitability of the catalyst to the microstructure reactor was verified by lab-scale in a microstructure reactor. According to WP3 findings, a 1 kg catalyst batch was manufactured at VTT and packed to MOBSU FT reactor by INERATEC for the demonstration run at Höchst.

Linked to the catalyst development activities, kinetic experiments and modelling were performed by Polito. The kinetic model was integrated into a process model to study different process concepts and their efficiencies and yields of desired product fractions. As the RWGS step requires heat, whereas the FT reaction is strongly exothermic heat integration is essential to achieve high efficiencies. The evaluation of heat integration possibilities and cost effectiveness were started in the first period and continued throughout the second reporting period. This task will continue until the end of the project, as Höchst experimental campaign will provide pilot scale concept data for more detailed process modelling.

The mass and energy balances obtained from the process modelling were used in the evaluation of the techno-economics of the process. Estimates for both capital and operational costs of an industrial scale plant that could be located at the Höchst were prepared. Evaluated end-products included FT waxes and solvents. The findings from the first LCA studies indicate that if renewable electricity is available, it is possible to exceed the 20% GHG emission reduction target with the production of waxes and chemicals via the studied ICO2CHEM concept. However, the results are sensitive to applied system boundaries and assumed energy production profiles. During the final period, evaluated concepts will be updated and the economic and environmental impacts of alternative locations for the production will be studied.

In the MOBSU, the FT product attained is divided to a liquid fraction and a wax fraction. Further separation is required to achieve product fractions used in different applications. The first product separations in lab-scale by short path distillation were made at VTT and Altana. However, during this reporting period, no suitable samples were produced to application tests. VTT and Altana started discussion with outsourced partner for MOBSU wax distillation. This distillation will be conducted after wax is available from Höchst experimental campaign.
ICO2CHEM aims to demonstrate a concept to produce white oils and high molecular weight waxes from industrial CO2 sources. Currently both of these hydrocarbons are produced from fossil raw materials coal, natural gas or crude oil. More specifically the hard wax is produced from fossil FT-wax and white oil from crude oil distillation. By using CO2 as raw material, at least 20% reduction in CO2 emissions is targeted compared to fossil-based products based on life cycle assessment.

To use the point sources of CO2 and H2, intensified FT synthesis technology by INERATEC plays an essential role in achieving the required capital costs of the synthesis for distributed plant concepts matching with industrial CO2 sources. The excellent heat transfer properties of the reactor allow the use of highly active catalyst developed during the project. In traditional reactor technologies, the catalyst activity needs to be limited to control the heat produced during the reaction. The catalyst development investigates advanced catalysts profiting from ALD coating technology.

The ICO2CHEM project involves industry, SME, research institute and universities. This combination will allow the widespread exploitation of the project results and increase the social impact of the project by increasing the competitiveness of the new European technologies, providing job opportunities in research and production as well as creating trainee and thesis opportunities for young people.
ICO2CHEM concept