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Development of an air to methanol micro-plant

Publieke samenvatting / Public summary

Aanleiding
Global warming and the rising CO2 concentration ask for more sustainable energy solutions. Technically it is already possible to capture CO2 from air and convert this CO2 into liquid hydrocarbons for carbon neutral fuels and products. However, CO2 direct air capture and renewable hydrogen for the production of liquid hydrocarbons are still too expensive. In April 2017, 3 experienced tech-entrepreneurs, started with a unique concept of a modular micro-plant. This micro-plant captures CO2 out of air and converts this CO2 into methanol directly at the back of a solar panel in decentral, remote, sun intensive locations, where renewable energy is the cheapest! The small size of the micro-plant enables dynamic control to handle the fluctuating solar-energy (small reactor) and enables mass production of the micro-plant to reduce costs and development time. ZEF and 18 technology and industry experts supported by 3 full time student teams (20 students each) have reached a proof of concept in the last 18 months. Team ZEF 1, 2, and 3 have built and tested all subsystems of the micro-plant. The direct air capture unit and electrolyzer can individually be used for other applications.

Korte omschrijving
The project will employ the expertise of a consortium of 3 SME’s, 3 research institutes and a customer board completed with multidisciplinary student teams. Start-up ZEF will coordinate the project. TU Delft, University of Twente and TNO support with R&D, tests and facilities. Promolding will add expertise on mass production (injection molding) and prototype realization. NPK adds industrial design expertise.

The main work packages:
1 Direct air capture system: Air to H2O + CO2
2 Alkaline electrolyzer: H20 to H2
3 Methanol synthesis & distillation: CO2+ H20 to pure MeOH
4 Control & simulations: stable, reliable software engine for dynamic operation
5 Micro-plant & solar panel connection: integrated product design of the micro-plant

The main research areas:
1 Integrated product design
2 Automated control
3 Sorbent and carrier selection
4 Lifetime of the CO2 compressor (0.1 – 50 bar)
5 Efficiency increase: From 37% to 50% (heat integration and efficiency optimizations)
6 Extensive lab tests on yield, efficiency and accuracy

Project management, business case development and marketing are other important activities.

Resultaat
A fully functional prototype of the micro-plant will be delivered at the end of the project:
1 Efficiency of 50%
2 96 kg CO2 direct air capture / year/ micro-plant
3 70 kg methanol production / year/ micro-plant
4 Automated operation
5 Dynamic simulations
6 Business case

After realization of the prototype ZEF will start development of the 0-serie and a pilot farm, followed by a first 12MW solar-methanol farm of 40.000 solar panels and micro-plants in 2022. A 12 MW farm captures yearly 3.850 tons of CO2 from air and produces 2.800 tons renewable methanol. The farms will be located in low cost, sun intensive areas and will allow economically feasible production of renewable methanol. The farms are extremely scalable because:
1. Only sun and air are needed as feedstocks
2. Availability of solar panels & EPC contractors
3. Mass production of the micro-plant
The micro-plant is a total recycle solution for CO2 that in addition prevents CO2 emissions from fossil methanol production. The project contributes to the Dutch key sectors: chemical industry (methanol), energy (CCUS/biobased economy/hydrogen/ circular/ system integration), high-tech (micro-plant) and logistics.