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CarbON Valorisation in Energy-efficient Green fuels

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CONVERGE (CarbON Valorisation in Energy-efficient Green fuels)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-02-28

The EU aims at cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 and 40% by 2030. When looking at the different economic sectors emitting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), transport plays an important part of the problem. In 2015, not only was transport (including international aviation and shipping) responsible for 27% of all EU GHG emissions but it was also the only sector whose emissions were increasing. Electrification will most certainly play an important role in diminishing emissions from the transport sector but this technological path has very strong limitations: availability of resources (for electricity production and storage), changes of infrastructures (eHighways), no foreseeable application for aviation. Because biomass grows by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere, depending on the supply scenario, usage of biofuels can result in reduced GHG emissions and they are hence considered as part of the mix of solutions that need to be deployed. In addition, nowadays, biomass is used for less than 0.1% to produce biodiesel because of the higher process complexity and costs with respect to fossil fuel feedstock. Therefore, there is a need for innovative and breakthrough technologies which makes competitive the use of biomass for producing biodiesel.
The CONVERGE project main aim is to validate an innovative process for green biodiesel production which is more efficient and less expensive than current technology making it competitive with fossil fuels. This new process configuration will take advantage of innovative technologies specifically selected to improve both efficiency and costs for each conversion step required from the biomass to the biodiesel.
From an overall point of view, the CONVERGE process will (i) reduce the conversion losses by 30% compared to a state-of-the art configuration, (ii) reduce from 11 to 9 the total number of major unit operations needed to achieve the conversion of secondary biomass and waste streams into green biodiesel, (iii) produce additional high value intermediate green refinery products.
The CONVERGE technology will increase the biodiesel production by 12% per secondary biomass unit used and reduce the CAPEX by 10% with respect to commercial technologies using secondary biomass as feedstock.
The CONVERGE project will develop four innovative components for the conversion of secondary biomass into biodiesel. These components are: (i) catalytic cracker with BTX removal, (ii) Sorption Enhanced Reformer, (iii) Electrochemical Hydrogen compressor and (iv) methanol membrane reactor.
The work performed and main achievements until M28 of the project are:
- catalytic cracker with BTX removal: Catalytic testing are on-going and the preselection of catalysts to be tested in a fluidized bed reactor is made. The catalytic cracker reactor construction is ongoing and the detailed design is available.
- Sorption Enhanced Reformer: the focus has been on the development of an innovative catalyst. The CONVERGE catalyst shows higher H2 production and less deactivation compared to the commercial type chosen as reference. Besides, it also shows less carbon deposition and better resistance towards sintering than the reference catalyst
- Electrochemical Hydrogen compressor: membrane screening tests have been completed, yielding a 30 µm and a 15 µm thick membrane. Continued testing for operating condition optimization have resulted in a gas-tight stack configuration based on the 30 µm hydrocarbon-based membrane. The current energy consumption indication for operation without CO in the feed gas is close to the project target.
- methanol membrane reactor: Test-rigs and modules for the single-tube membrane testing are up to date. Preselection of membranes to be tested in the one-tube membrane reactor is made. Detailed design for the multi-tubular membrane reactor is available.

The experimental activity was supported by the modelling of the overall process to assess the energy, economic and environmental performance through a detailed techno-economic and Life-cycle analysis. In parallel, the methodology for selecting the most promising biomass supply chain for the CONVERGE process and ensure the provision of a renewable has been identified.
The project aims at developing and demonstrating an innovative process for biodiesel production from secondary waste biomass, yielding higher efficiency and lower cost.
• The syngas treatment process will guarantee a carbon/hydrogen purity above 99% which is 5% higher than current technologies, allowing 17% larger overall carbon usage;
• The adoption of Sorption Enhanced reforming will reduce the H2 production and CO2 separation from 2 MJ/kgCO2 of current technologies down to 1.2 MJ/kgCO2;
• The Electrochemical hydrogen compression will reduce the purification and compression work from 16 MJ/kgH2 of current technologies down to 12 MJ/kgH2;
• The combination of these advantages will bring a reduction of energy losses by 30%, resulting in higher biodiesel production of 12%
• Reduce the capital expenditure of the overall process from biomass to methanol by 15% thanks to the equipment reduction;
• Reduce the operational expenditure as consequence of the more efficient production by 10%;
• Reduction of CO2 emissions by 0.2 kgCO2/kgMetOH as consequence of higher production efficiency;

Expected impacts of the CONVERGE project are:
Reduce cost of renewable fuels: CONVERGE unlocks the adoption of waste and secondary biomass as a resource for producing green methanol for biodiesel production. The potential fuel saving cost in production using CONVERGE technology are between M€50and M€2100 annually across the sector, respectively for minimum (2017 current biodiesel production for FAME) and stretch scenarios (assuming 50% of current diesel market replaced by biodiesel).
Improve efficiency of renewable energy production: The CONVERGE technology can achieve a 30% decrease in the losses of primary biomass energy compared to state-of-the-art biomass to methanol chains for biodiesel. This translates to a fuel energy saving of 3.5 and 60 PJ/annum for the minimum and stretch scenarios respectively.
Improve environmental impact of renewable fuels: The CONVERGE value chain will reduce the emissions related to this fossil fuel use by 1.6 and 26 MtonCO2/annum for the minimum and stretch scenarios respectively. These are emissions that will not be emitted to atmosphere because of the fuel switch. Moreover, because CONVERGE creates a pure stream of CO2, that is only partially needed for methanol production (without another energy carrier such as renewable H2 being introduced), then negative emission can be achieved of respectively 0.9 and 16 MtonCO2/annum.
Improvement of the social benefits of biofuels: In 2017, there were 213 operating bio-refineries in EU28 for the production of biodiesel with an increase around 80% from 2005. This trend is expected to continue growing, specifically for liquid biofuels, another 200000 jobs are expected up to 2030, and the CONVERGE project will contribute to this growth.
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