The concept of the Methanol Economy proposes the simple alcohol methanol (CH3OH) as the basis for meeting our future chemical and fuel needs. Methanol is an excellent fuel for internal combustion engines in particular. One possible route to synthetic methanol that could help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is the capture and recycling of CO2 into methanol (and/or dimethyl ether, an equally promising high-cetane diesel substitute). If required, methanol can subsequently be converted into higher synthetic hydrocarbons, platform chemicals and other products. Indeed, many other synthetic fuels – liquid and gaseous – could be produced from H2 and recycled CO2 and directly integrated into existing fuel-delivery/-use infrastructures without excessive investment costs, thereby offering a practical way to displace fossil fuels and reduce emissions. Furthermore, if renewable electrical energy (e.g. solar, wind, tidal, etc.) is used to power the synthesis process, these fuels could also serve as chemical storage media for intermittent renewable electricity supply. As such, these power-to-liquid (and power-to-gas) schemes could play a role in energy transition strategies by further integrating renewables while also helping to address the diverse energy needs of a modern society.
Project aim and results:
In this programme, our research group is assessing the capture of CO2 (e.g. at emission point and potentially from the air) and its catalytic conversion into methanol (and/or dimethyl ether), considering at each process step the potential of existing industrial, state-of-the-art and future technologies as well the associated economic factors and energy demands. A number of technologies associated with the production of H2 are also being investigated. We are developing a process scheme for producing new CO2-derived fuels in the most environmentally friendly and economically efficient way possible, with the ultimate aim of making the basis for the fulfilment of society’s fuel and chemical demands carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative. Our group aims to produce a technical and economic analysis of existing and developing technologies and bring together relevant stakeholders in order to promote the introduction of synthetic CO2-capture-derived methanol (and other synthetic fuels) into the chemical and fuel markets.
Read more about this research programme:
- IASS Workshop “Sustainable Fuels from Renewable Energies”, November 2013.
- IASS Fact Sheet on Sustainable Synthetic Fuels (03/2014).
- Varone, A., Ferrari, M. (2015): Power to liquid and power to gas: An option for the German Energiewende. - Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 45, p. 207-218.