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Direct electrocatalytic conversion of CO2 into chemical energy carriers in a co-ionic membrane reactor

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - eCOCO2 (Direct electrocatalytic conversion of CO2 into chemical energy carriers in a co-ionic membrane reactor)

Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2020-10-31

Greenhouse gas emissions reduction policies to mitigate the alarming climate change can impact carbon-intensive industrial sectors, leading to loss of employment and competitiveness. Current multistage Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) technologies using renewable electricity to yield fuels suffer from low energy efficiency and require large CAPEX (capital expenditure). The project eCOCO2 combines smart molecular catalysis and process intensification to bring out a novel efficient, flexible and scalable CCU technology.

The project aims to set up a CO2 conversion process using renewable electricity and water steam to directly produce synthetic jet fuels with balanced hydrocarbon distribution (paraffin, olefins and aromatics) to meet the stringent specifications in aviation. The CO2 converter consists of a tailor-made multifunctional catalyst integrated in a co-ionic electrochemical cell that enables to in-situ realise electrolysis and water removal from hydrocarbon synthesis reaction. This intensified process can lead to breakthrough product yield and efficiency for chemical energy storage from electricity, specifically CO2 per-pass conversion > 85%, energy efficiency > 85% and net specific demand < 6 MWh/t CO2. In addition, the process is compact, modular –quickly scalable- and flexible, thus, process operation and economics can be adjusted to renewable energy fluctuations. As a result, this technology will enable to store more energy per processed CO2 molecule and therefore to reduce greenhouse gas emissions per jet fuel tone produced from electricity at a substantial higher level.

The project eCOCO2 aims to demonstrate the technology by producing > 250 g of jet fuel per day in an existing modular prototype rig that integrates 18 tubular intensified electrochemical reactors (TRL-5, technology validated in relevant environment). Studies on societal perception and acceptance will be carried out across several European regions. The consortium counts on academic partners with the highest world-wide excellence and exceptional industrial partners with three major actors in the most CO2-emmiting sectors.
Regarding technical achievements, candidate materials for the electrolyte were intensively studied, selected and designed to achieve adequate co-ionic H+/O2- conductivity. The electrode materials are being optimised by adjusting composition and microstructure to reach active and selective operation use within the electrochemical reactor. Multifunctional (hybrid) catalysts for direct reduction of CO2 to liquid hydrocarbons in the jet fuel range were studied by two different catalytic routes: (i) route via methanol/DME intermediates, and (ii) modified Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis (m-FTS) route. Advances were carried out to manufacture the electrochemical cells with the novel co-ionic electrolyte and to validate application of microwave sintering for the process.

Representative industrial process streams originating from CO2-intensive industries (refinery, metallurgy, cement and waste management) were identified and most favourable scenarios to introduce eCOCO2 technology pre-selected. Process simulation, techno-economic and sensibility analysis for the first selected refinery scenario was developed.

The assessment of societal perception and acceptance of the eCOCO2 technology and resulting end-product was completed. A methodological framework, technical scenarios and measurement objects were defined to be able to identify reliable acceptance levels, possible trade-offs, adoption profiles and communication strategies.

On the other hand, regarding non-technical achievements, the strong interaction among WPs and partners can be emphasized. Other relevant activities include establishment of the project communication channels, first peer-reviewed scientific publication and active participation in meetings, congresses and workshops.
The integrated technology developed in eCOCO2 will combine CO2 reduction and steam electrolysis in a single step process of unprecedented higher efficiency, and at the same time lower production costs. Current multistage Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) technologies using renewable electricity to yield fuels suffer from low energy efficiency and require large CAPEX (capital expenditure). It will be achieved by reducing energy expenses (due to the higher energy efficiency) and capital investment (due to process intensification leading to a reduced number of process units).

An alternative technology will be developed to produce carbon-neutral synthetic jet fuels from CO2 and water, having a suitable composition of different types of hydrocarbons (C7-C16) that include, besides linear and branched paraffins, cyclic paraffins and aromatics. These will be of high relevance for their direct use in aircraft engines (i.e. without requiring blending with conventional oil-derived jet fuels).

The eCOCO2 project will study and develop the different components of a co-ionic membrane reactor based on a Protonic Ceramic Electrochemical Cell (PCEC) and validate the technology for the direct electrocatalytic conversion of CO2 and steam into chemical energy carriers. The project will also optimise multi-functional catalysts for the one-pot production of light olefins as an intermediate product and jet fuels directly from CO2 and H2, by properly tuning the catalysts properties to enable the efficient operation in the conditions required at the co-ionic electrochemical cells.

Moreover, industrial processes in carbon-intensive sectors suitable for integration of eCOCO2 technology will be analysed regarding economic, environmental, societal and geo-politic criteria. The societal perception and acceptance of the technology as well as of the products will be assessed, modelled and predicted. The project will contribute with guidelines and strategies for public communication and as result, awareness and acceptance of carbon conversion technologies in general, and in particular of eCOCO2, will be improved.
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