Skip to main content

From residual steel gasses to methanol

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - FReSMe (From residual steel gasses to methanol)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2021-06-30

The Iron and Steel industry is responsible for 8% of world CO2 emissions. The Blast furnace-Basic Oxygen (BF-BOF) route is the main primary steel production route and accounts for nearly 60% of the steel produced in Europe. Primary steel production emits around 1.7 tons of CO2 per ton of steel produced thus the steel sector is key to accomplish the decarbonisation targets set by the EC. While hydrogen is a highly promising route for steel production, the technology is still at early demonstration phase and will require a complete retrofit/rebuild of the existing BF units which may not be always possible. Carbon Capture, Storage and Utilisation (CCUS) can achieve significant CO2 reduction and can be integrated within existing BF-BOF steel plants, although specific technologies need to be demonstrated and favourable business cases need to be built.
In this context, FReSMe wants to demonstrate the feasibility of valorising CO2 and H2 captured from Blast Furnace Gas (BFG) by turning it into a versatile platform chemical and renewable fuel such as methanol. Moreover, other steel making residual gases such as BOF gas and Coke Oven gas (COG) are also suitable feedstock for methanol production using FReSMe’s technologies. The overall concept demonstrated was the methanol production from captured CO2 and H2 from BFG plus additional H2 produced through water electrolysis. The project used the existing equipment from previous H2020 projects STEPWISE and MefCO2. STEPWISE focussed on the efficient separation of H2 and CO2 from BFG and MefCO2 targeted the synthesis of methanol from captured CO2. In addition to the equipment from these projects, FReSMe pilot plant includes supplemental H2 production from an electrolyser and an H2/N2 membrane separation unit. FReSMe successfully achieved three key goals: (1) the optimisation of the technologies involved, (2) their integration in a pilot plant and (3) the end use demonstration of methanol as marine fuel.
The main benefits derived from the project are the following:
-Provide a valorisation alternative for captured CO2 from steel production off-gases contributing to a more attractive business case around CCUS.
-Contribute to use a greener methanol fuel in line with the EC´s ambitious targets for renewable energy use in 2020 and 2030
Conclusions of the action
FReSMe successfully accomplished the goals set by providing a flexible methanol production process using BF gas. The plant was operated in four different settings during the testing phase: 1) Electrolyser only with CO2 coming from SEWGS and H2 produced through water electrolysis. 2) High turndown mode operation below the plant’s capacity using CO2 and H2 from the SEWGS, supplemented with H2 from the electrolyser, 3) Maximum methanol production capacity using CO2 and H2 coming from the SEWGS and the maximum H2 output from the electrolyser and 4) BFG only mode in which the plant is operated only with CO2 and H2 coming from the BFG. The BFG only mode was not envisaged within the original scope but allowed the demonstration of the flexibility of the plant which was able to operate well below its nameplate capacity.
The technology has been successfully deployed at Swerim’s test facilities in Luleå (Sweden) next to SSAB’s steel plant which supplied the BFG. The BFG entered TNO’s SEWGS unit which selectively captures CO2 and reacts CO into CO2 and H2. H2 was then sent into Array Industries’ membrane separation system which separates N2 from H2 which is fed to the ETL reactor.
The ETL technology operated successfully under a variety of feed streams and provided valuable information for further improvements and optimisation of the system, when utilising BFG and BOFG. As a result of the tests, 25 tons of methanol were produced. The methanol complied with IMPCA standards and was used in June 2021 as low emission fuel in Stena Germanica ship connecting Gothenburg and Kiel.
In addition to the pilot testing, a comprehensive work was carried out in terms of novel Cu/perovskite catalysts, process optimisation through multi-scale process optimisation, analysis on the impact of impurities and N2 in the system operation were also conducted. In addition, CO2 novel sorbent testing, and SEWGS cycle design research provided valuable data for the next steps when SEWGS technology will move from a single column design to a multi-column system.
A comprehensive LCA analysis was conducted considering the fair allocation method between the two plant products (methanol and steel). An in-depth study on the use of hydrogen in the steel industry was conducted as well as a scale-up research and techno-economic analysis to define the best industrial plant configuration and combination of steel gases that could be used for methanol production.
FReSMe successful implementation demonstrated the feasibility of valorizing residual steel gases for the production of methanol and set the basis for the deployment of CCUS in the steel industry allowing a decarbonisation alternative compatible with existing steel plants.
As advancement beyond the state-of-the-art, FReSMe represents the first overall demonstration at TRL 6 of methanol production and use from residual gases in the Iron & Steel industry and both BFG and electrolysis for supplemental H2. A CO2 sorbent and cycle development will be set up, together with catalyst development and process optimisation for residual steel gases in the conversion to methanol. The societal impacts will play a significant role in the project. The process is an example of how the right combination of technology and innovation might lead to an efficient use of renewable power while CO2 emission reductions are being accomplished and additional economic income is obtained through the sales of methanol. Cost competitive decarbonization is key to prevent carbon leakage thus retaining qualified jobs in an strategic sector in European soil while minimizing the environmental impact of industrial activities. Being environmentally friendly and fostering sustainability can be an additional source of revenues and wealth if the appropriate technologies are developed with the needed industry bias. In this case, FReSMe will combine the best available knowledge, from chemical engineering to standard industrial processes in order to obtain a profit from the economic and environmental (CO2 capture and fossil fuel substitution) perspectives. When technology reaches commercial status, European ownership of key technologies and know-how will contribute to global leadership in this area. The impact on job creation, may largely be viewed as the creation of the demand of highly skilled professionals (predominantly engineers), who are to be responsible for technology adaptation, deployment and operation. Bromberg and Chen estimated that methanol plants can create between 50 and 120 direct jobs. Hence,80 direct jobs can be created in the steel plant. Indirect job creation is estimated at 560 jobs.
Main impacts
- Demonstration, in a relevant environment and scale of the technical and economic feasibility of novel and environmentally friendly processes for CO2 conversion of high volume added value products such as chemicals and/or fuels
- Reduction of the emissions of greenhouse gases on full LCA basis
- Significant decrease of the costs of CCU vs. CCS
- Improved energy and resource intensity with respect to conventional manufacturing of the product
FReSMe logo