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FLExible Dimethyl ether production from biomass Gasification with sorption-enhancED processes

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FLEDGED (FLExible Dimethyl ether production from biomass Gasification with sorption-enhancED processes)

Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2019-06-30

The FLEDGED project will deliver a process for Bio-based dimethyl Ether (DME) production from biomass. The FLEDGED project will combine a flexible sorption enhanced gasification (SEG) process and a novel sorption enhanced DME synthesis (SEDMES) process to produce DME from biomass with an efficient and low cost process.

The primary aim of FLEDGED project is to develop a highly intensified and flexible process for DME production from biomass and validate it in industrially relevant environments. This objective will be accomplished by:
- Experimental validation of the flexible SEG and SEDMES processes at TRL5.
- Evaluation of the full biofuel production chain from energy, environmental, economic, socio-economic and risk point of view.
- Preparation of the future exploitation of the results of the project beyond FLEDGED.

By combining the SEG and the SEDMES processes, the FLEDGED project will validate a plant concept that:
- is highly process intensified: sorption of CO2 in the gasifier and of water in the DME reactor allows designing an overall process for DME production with with reduced number of process units
- allows operating with a wide range of biomass feedstocks
- will be more efficient than competitive processes and expected to have a lower cost, thanks to the reduced number of components, the avoidance or significant reduction of recycles and the avoidance of energy consuming and costly air separation and CO2 separation units
- is capable of producing syngas with tailored composition by adapting the SEG process parameters, which allows coupling with an electrolysis system for converting excess intermittent renewable electricity into a high value liquid fuel
Development of the flexible SEG process:
Different feedstocks to be used along the project (wood pellets, pine wood, straw, grape seeds, different samples of municipal solid waste from Econward Tech pretreatment plant) were characterised and tested in the 30 kW CSIC-ICB bubbling fluidized bed gasifier.
Pre-tests of SEG process with wood pellets and municipal solid waste derived pellets have been also carried out in a 20 kW lab scale fluidised bed facility at the University of Stuttgart.
TRL5 validation tests have been carried out in the 200 kW pilot facility at the University of Stuttgart with wood pellets and municipal solid waste derived pellets produced in the Econward Tech plant. Operational flexibility of the SEG process was demonstrated, by showing the capability of controlling the syngas composition by modifying the solids circulation rate. To reach a syngas M-module (M=(H2-CO2)/(CO+CO2)) of 2, which is the target value for DME synthesis, a gasification temperature of approximately 720 °C is needed. Higher gasification temperatures lead to lower M (i.e. higher carbon content in the syngas), allowing mixing of hydrogen from electrolysis, supportiung grid balancing.
Tests of a novel two-stage SEG process for methane reduction have been carried out at the University of Stuttgart, showing the capability of reducing the methane content in syngas by 50% compared to baseline conditions.

Development of the flexible SEDMES process:
Several catalysts for the synthesis of methanol from syngas and for methanol dehydration have been prepared and characterized at CSIC-ICP.
At TNO, cyclic SEDMES tests with different catalyst/sorbent mixtures have been carried out and functional materials to be used in pilot testing have been selected. These preparatory tests also highlighted the regeneration conditions needed to avoid catalyst deactivation.
TRL4 experiments are underway in a single column SEDMES facility at TNO, while TRL5 validation tests will begin in early 2020.

Process modelling and techno-economic analysis:
The complete FLEDGED process that combines the SEG and the SEDMES processes is being assessed through process simulation study at Politecnico di Milano. First results of techno-economic study of baseline FLEDGED process revealed efficiency and economic KPIs below the target. This first analysis allowed identifying areas of improvement for the final techno-economic study.
The techno-economic analysis of the complete FLEDGED process has been supported by the SEG models developed by CSIC-ICB and LUT. Development of models of the SEDMES process is underway at Politecnico di Milano and ECN.

Risk and Sustainability Analysis:
Preliminary well-to-wheel (WTW) LCA study and risk analysis of the baseline FLEDGED process have been carried out by QUANTIS and INERIS on the baseline FLEDGED process and areas of improvement have been identified.
The scope of the Socio-Economic Analysis has been defined, which will focus both on the FLEDGED process for DME fuel production and on the use of DME based fuels.

Exploitation study:
Commercial exploitation study with business model has been developed by Econward TEch, Frames and Sumitomo SHI FW with reference to: (i) small-scale plant for the conversion of MSW into DME, for subsequent use in garbage diesel trucks and other heavy vehicles and (ii) large-scale plant (100 MWth) for conversion of forestry biomass or lignin into DME.
Combination of conditions needed (allowable Capex, allowable biomass cost, plant efficiency, DME price, subsidies) to make the commercial deployment of FLEDGED processes economically feasible have been identified.
Significant progress beyond the state-of-the-art is expected in FLEDGED, especially in relation to: (i) unprecedented tests of SEG process with several types of biomass; (ii) the validation at TRL5 the SEG flexibility on the syngas composition and the possible integration with electrolysis unit; (iii) the validation of the sorption enhanced DME synthesis reactor at TRL5; (iv) the development of novel catalyst specifically designed for the SEDMES process; (v) the development of a novel overall biomass to DME process characterized by better energy and economic performance, with high flexibility and the possibility of integration of bio-CCS.

The expected impact of FLEDGED project is summarized in the following list:
- Technical-scientific impact: two novel complementary processes will be developed that will create new knowledge, new methods and new technology.
- Technical-industrial impact: a new process-intensified, efficient, compact and flexible DME synthesis route will be developed, ultimately leading to a simplified and cheaper DME production chain.
- Societal impact: FLEDGED process will favour the spread of electric intermittent renewables by supporting power to liquid concept, leading to specific societal impacts: i) improve EU energy security due to a reduction in the reliance of fuel imports to the EU; ii) contribute reducing the emissions of CO2 and other classical pollutants from the EU energy sector by increasing the share of electric renewables in the European energy mix; iii) allow for negative WTW CO2 emissions by CO2 capture and storage.
- The potential societal impacts will be maximized by developing the process through a comprehensive approach including LCA and socio-economic analysis.
- Industrial-business impact: the European industrial competitiveness will be improved by developing innovations that will be industrially exploited by the companies of the consortium, covering all sectors of the value chain in a complementary way.