Skip to main content

Membranes And Catalysts Beyond Economic and Technological Hurdles

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MACBETH (Membranes And Catalysts Beyond Economic and Technological Hurdles)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-04-30

In all sectors of the process industry, downstream processing requires a significant share of the overall energy and resource consumption. Furthermore, downstream units require a large portion of the CAPEX and OPEX for a new process. To significantly enhance the competitiveness of the European process industry and to contribute to Europe’s goal of a clean and liveable environment, it is highly desired to have a very broadly applicable concept for an efficient integration of downstream operations in the overall process chain.
The MACBETH consortium provides this breakthrough technology by combining catalytic synthesis with the corresponding separation units in a single highly efficient catalytic membrane reactor (CMR).

This disruptive technology has the ability to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of large volume industrial process by up to 45 %. Additionally, resource and energy efficiency will be increased by up to 70%. The revolutionary new reactor design will not only guarantee substantially smaller and safer production plants but has also a tremendous competitive advantage since CAPEX is decreased by up to 50% and OPEX by up to 80%.
To achieve this, the MACBETH consortium combines the catalytic synthesis step with the highly efficient separation step via a tailor made membrane. The predecessor EU funded projects ROMEO, BIONICO and CARENA have laid the strong basis by showing the proof of concept for CMRs at TRL 5. Successful TRL 5 pilot plants are in operation for the following highly relevant and large scale processes:
• Hydroformylation
• Hydrogen production
• Propane dehydrogenation
Key members of these consortiums have now joined forces in MACBETH to bring CMR to the level of TRL 7 for all three processes and finally to commercialisation. In this unique approach of combining three successful European projects to the joint MACBETH endeavour at a higher TRL we will demonstrate on the foundation of a large variety of building blocks such as catalysts, membranes, support materials and reactor concepts that CMR are broadly applicable at significantly different conditions in virtually any sector of process industry that requires a separation after a catalytic synthesis.
Since, according to SusChem , more than 80% of the processes in the chemical industry worth approximately 1,500 bn €, depend on catalytic technologies, a huge impact can be assumed in other sectors with high confidence.

The confidence of the MACBETH consortium to reach its highly ambitious goals are underlined by two special extensions that go well beyond the ordinary scope of an EU project:
• Transfer of CMR technology to a new sector already within MACBETH
Having the three cases above in mind one might not immediately think about bio technology as the next step to further exploit the full potential of CMR. Nonetheless, the vast majority of bio technological reactions require the use of bacteria or enzymes, which are surely a special type of catalysts. A prominent and commercially highly interesting example is the selective enzymatical cleavage of fatty acids. Within MACBETH we will demonstrate that starting from building blocks of TRL 5 (not from a TRL 5 pilot plant as at the other three cases), that fit the requirements of this specific case, and with the combined support and system knowledge of the experienced CMR partners, by the end of the project we will have a TRL 7 demo plant established, that will show for the first time the commercial applicability of CMR in bio technology. It can be expected that this demo plant of bio-catalytical oil cleavage will serve as a role model for further extensions to other disciplines.

• Creation of the spin-off European “Lighthouse Catalytic Membrane Reactors” (LCMR) within MACBETH
In order to go beyond the demonstration of CMR in the field of bio technology and bringing their outstanding benefits to other sectors and an even wider field of applications, a European competence centre will be established. For the MACBETH consortium the installation of this spin-off is not a vague idea that may or may not be realized after the end of the project, but is taken very seriously and an actual detailed business plan including partner commitment will be realized already during the duration of the project. These efforts will ultimately lead to the foundation of the “Lighthouse Catalytic Membrane Reactors” (LCMR) that will provide access to the combined knowledge of the MACBETH project with respect to all relevant disciplines such as building blocks, modelling and system integration valorizing the project’s results through the structured offering of commercial services to interested stakeholders.
The SARS-CoV2 pandemic effected specially the work at universities and R&D institutes due to lab closures and other major restrictions in the first reporting period. Nonetheless, the MACBETH consortium is nearly on track and only a delay of 6 months is expected.

In the first reporting period significant progress has been made in all four cases (hydroformylation, hydrogen production, propane dehydrogenation and bio-catalytical oil cleavage). A major task was the cross-fertilisation between the cases. While, obviously, the catalysts itself have not been exchanged since they are tailor-made of a reaction, major cross testing of support materials have been performed with support materials and membranes. Promising candidates will be examined further in the duration of the project and might be possible building blocks for a 2.0 version of the reactor under development now.

In the intendent less advanced case (bio-catalytical oil cleavage) the reactor/membrane plant concept was developed and finalised. On the other hand, for the most advanced case (hydrogen production) the prototype is already in production. For the other two cases the foreseen infrastructure is ready to host the demo plant soon and the reactor concepts were refined.

Furthermore, the modelling activities have been aligned between the cases also a common basis for Life Cycle Assessment was developed.

To multiply the outreach a detailed stake holder analysis was performed and the first business plan for the planned spin off Lighthouse Catalytic Membrane Reactors was developed.

The SARS-CoV2 pandemic prevented the consortium members to attend conferences to present the MACBETH projects and its results. It was possible to only join a few online events. But it will be a special honour that a dedicated MACBETH session including a keynote is hosted at the upcoming European Congress of Chemical Engineering.
The progress beyond the state of the art, the expected results as well as the socio-economic impact is already explained in deatil in section 1.
Schematic presentation of MACBETH technology combining synthesis and separation units in a single re
MACBETH project set-up and the way beyond