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H2020

CELBICON Report Summary

Project ID: 679050
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CELBICON (Cost-effective CO2 conversion into chemicals via combination of Capture, ELectrochemical and BI-ochemical CONversion technologies)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2017-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The conversion of CO2 into valuable chemicals by the use of renewable energy (e.g. syngas) will become a strategic goal in the next decades. It will entail the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but also the generation of renewable compounds substituting fossil ones. CO2 generation from e.g. fermentation processes will offer excellent application opportunities for this concept, owing to their rather high carbon dioxide concentrations and their favorable chemical context (i.e. pure CO2 from alcoholic fermentations in bio-refineries, distilleries, etc.; biogas from anaerobic fermentation or landfills, containing 20-45 % CO2). However, a significant impact of the CO2-to-chemicals future processes will be achieved only if viable CO2 capture/purification technologies from the atmosphere or flue gases will be developed.

In that context, the CELBICON project aims at the development, from TRL3 to TRL5, of new CO2-to-chemicals technologies, conjugating at once small-scale for an effective decentralized market penetration, high efficiency/yield, low cost, robustness, moderate operating temperatures, low maintenance costs and high versatility to be adapted to the synthesis of a variety of chemical products.

These technologies will bridge cost-effective CO2 capture and purification from the atmosphere through sorbents (with efficient heat integration of the CO2 desorption step with the subsequent process stages), with electrochemical conversion of CO2 (via PEM electrolysis concepts, promoting CO2 reduction at their cathode in combination with a fruitful oxidation carried out simultaneously at the anode), followed by bioreactors carrying out the fermentation of the CO2-reduction intermediates (syngas, C1 water-soluble molecules) to form valuable products (bioplastics like Poly-Hydroxy-Alkanoates - PHA -, isoprene, lactic acid, methane, etc.) as well as effective routes for their recovery from the process outlet streams.

A distinctive feature of the CELBICON approach is the innovative interplay and advances of key technologies brought in by partners (high-tech SMEs & companies, research centers) to achieve unprecedented yield and efficiency results along the following two processing lines: i) High pressure process line tailored to the production of a PHA bioplastic and pressurized methane via intermediate electrochemical generation of pressurized syngas followed by specific fermentation steps; ii) Low pressure processing line focused on the production of value-added chemicals by fermentation of CO2-reduction water-soluble C1 intermediates. Over a 42 months project duration, these two process lines will undergo a thorough component development R&D program and will be validated at TRL5 prototype level, under industrially relevant conditions, over three technological platforms (TP, see Figure 1).

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

CELBICON project is expected to achieve several technological breakthroughs during the 42 months of the project. Currently, after 18 months, the following outcomes have been reached:

1. CO2 capture & release: based on the CLIMEWORKS direct air capture technology with a nominal capacity of 8 kg CO2 per day, it was completed the design of the heat management unit for the integration with the compression dissolution unit (more details in www.climeworks.com ).

2. Simultaneous compression and dissolution of CO2 in water: KIT and MTM completed the design of the compressor (piston) and the nozzle sizes for this unit.

3. CO2 electrochemical conversion: Electrocatalysts, electrodes, smart membranes and electrochemical cells have been developed by TUD, F-IGB, UMON and HST (in collaboration with POLITO and AVT partners) for the CO2 conversion to high-added value products (i.e. syngas and formate) achieving high reaction rates and selectivity with scalable solutions.

4. Biofermentation: F-IGB, CSIC, POLITO, KRAJETE and HST accomplished the selection of the most appropriate microorganisms strains for the (PHA, terpene and methane production), developed the most appropriate strategies of fermentation and genetic modification of the microorganisms, designed novel and unique high-pressure bioreactors and achieved an stable biomethanation performance of up to 20 kg/m3h for at least 1000 h.

Published articles:

- Massa, A. et.al. Electro-oxidation of phenol over electrodeposited MnOx nanostructures and the role of a TiO2 nanotubes interlayer. Applied Catalysis B: Environmental 2017, 203, 270-281.
- Prieto, A., To be, or not to be biodegradable. . . that is the question for the bio-based plastics. Microbial Biotechnology 2016, 9(5), 652-657. DOI: 10.1111/1751-7915.12393
- Kniewel, R. et.al., Biogenesis of medium-chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoates. In: Biogenesis of Fatty Acids, Lipids and Membranes, Part of the series “Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology”, Springer International Publishing (Switzerland), Online ISBN 978-3-319-43676-0, 2017, pp 1-25. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-43676-0_29-1
- Hernandez, S. et. al. Syngas Production from Electrochemical Reduction of CO2: Current Status and Prospective Implementation. Green Chemistry 2017, 19, 2326 - 2346. This article is part of the themed collections: “2017 Green Chemistry Hot Articles” and “Harvesting Renewable Energy with Chemistry”.
- A. Abdel Azim, et. al. The physiology of trace elements in biological methane production. Bioresource Technology, 2017, 241, 775-786.
- MS Godoy, et. al. About how to capture and exploit the CO2 surplus that nature, per se, is not capable of fixing. Microbial Biotechnology (2017), 10(5):1216-1225; DOI: 10.1111/1751-7915.12805

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

To move the TRL level from 3 to 5, it is not only necessary to design and develop optimized prototypes, starting from proof-of-concept units of the key reaction and separation CELBICON technologies (i.e. CO2 capture/release, electrochemical and biological reactors, downstream processing units), and test them under representative environment, but also to address the key questions for an industrial-relevant plant for an optimal integration of the units in breadboard-integrated technology platforms. By these means CELBICON will pursue an innovative interplay of key partners’ technologies to achieve unprecedented yield and efficiency along two distinct process lines, finally validated at TRL5 by dedicated experiments under industrially relevant conditions over three technological platforms shown in Fig. 1.

Expected impacts:

New technological advances are necessary to replace the fossil fuels and chemicals with green alternatives that produce low-to-no CO2 during utilization, in order to meet the EU target levels of 20% reduced greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 2020, and further reduction up to 80-95% by 2050. From the economic, energetic, and environmental viewpoints, the conversion of renewable resources into clean fuels and chemicals is the only viable solution to meet the growing demand of Europe and the entire World. CELBICON will produce an impact in this scenario via innovative technologies for the exploitation of decentralised CO2 in the synthesis of green chemicals and biopolymers with: i) near-to-zero greenhouse gas emissions: all the CELBICON technologies are tailored to minimise energy consumption and limit it to renewable ones; ii) cost competitive conditions compared to fossil alternatives, on the grounds of market projection analyses.

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