ZEF Microplant

ZEF Micro-plant: production of low cost, carbon neutral, shipping fuel

Publieke samenvatting / Public summary

There is a need for carbon neutral shipping fuels. Rotterdam is one of the largest marine bunker fuel locations in the world. Over 20.000 vessels bunker yearly ~10M ton of fossil fuel resulting in ~ 35 Megaton CO2 emissions: ~18% of total Dutch CO2 emissions. Methanol is recognized as one of the most interesting shipping fuels. Methanol is an existing commodity and a clean burning fuel with a good energy density. The use of Methanol as marine fuel is proven, and methanol is easy to store and bunker. In April 2017, 3 experienced tech-entrepreneurs started the development of a modular, micro-plant to produce methanol from air and sun. The device 1) Captures CO2 and water from air, 2) makes hydrogen from the captured water and, 3) converts the CO2 and H2 into methanol. The micro-plant is connected to solar panels in large solar farms. ZEF developed the micro-plant sub-systems together with scientists, industry experts and 8 student teams of 30+ full time students. ZEF succeeded to bring the Micro-plant to TRL 3-4 from 2017-2021: prototypes of all subsystems have been build and tested.

The micro-plant offers fully circular marine fuel: CO2 and H2O are captured from air and converted into methanol using solar energy only. When the methanol is burned as marine fuel the CO2 and H2O are released back into the atmosphere. The Micro-plant enables 3-5 times lower production costs compared to other atmospheric CO2 to methanol projects and is competitive with other alternative fuels by: 1) Low energy costs using fluctuating, low cost, solar energy (sun-intensive regions). The micro-plant is fully compatible with utility solar 2) Low equipment costs by mass production: thousands of micro-plants per farm. 3) Full Automation and several innovative solutions. 4) De-central production: The micro-plant can run off-grid and no feedstocks are needed. Methanol is one of the best options for carbon neutral marine fuel: It is a liquid that can be stored at atmospheric conditions, offers similar bunkering with current (fossil) Marine fuels, and is a proven fuel for marine engines. In this TSE project ZEF will bring the development of the micro-plant to TRL 5: ready for large scale pilots.

Korte omschrijving
The project will employ the expertise of a consortium of 3 SME's and a research institute. Start-up ZEF will coordinate the project and execute most developments with the support of ZEF student teams. TU Delft will support with facilities and R&D. Promolding will add expertise on injection molding and prototype realization. NPK adds industrial design expertise and production cost analysis. Vopak, Maersk, Chint and OQ will be consulted for market feedback. The main work packages: 1 Direct air capture (CO2 + water capture from air) 2 CO2 compressor train (Small scale compressors 1-55 bar) 3 Dynamic Methanol reactor (auto-thermal) 4 Micro-Distillation (incl. water re-use for DAC) 5 Micro-plant (integration all components & automatic control) 6 Economics & LCA (Solar-methanol farm, shipping fuel economic study, LCA) The main research areas: 1 Integrated product design 2 Control & electronics 3 Sorbents specifications DAC 4 Lifetime Sorbents, compressor, materials & micro-plant 5 Efficiency: maximized (cost) efficiency 6 Extensive tests on yield, efficiency and accuracy

An integrated micro-plant will be delivered at the end of the project: 1 Overall Efficiency of 40% 2 700 kg methanol production (year/ micro-plant) 3 Automated dynamic operation of the micro-plant 4 Bill of materials (BOM) Micro-plant 5 Manufacturing (cost) overview micro-plant 6 Business case solar methanol farm & LCA ZEF methanol After realization of the micro-plant, ZEF will start with production investments including a pilot farm, followed by a first 150 MW farm (40.000 Micro-plants) in 2026. The farms will be located in sun intensive areas and will allow production of DAC based carbon-neutral methanol at 3x lower costs. The farms are extremely scalable: 1. Only sun and air are needed as feedstocks (freedom location) 2. Availability of solar panels & EPC contractors 3. Mass production of the micro-plants The micro-plant offers a total recycle solution for CO2 that in addition prevents CO2 emissions from fossil methanol production. The project contributes to the Dutch key sectors: logistics (marine fuel, storage & transport) energy (CCUS/ hydrogen/ circularity/ system integration), high-tech (supply, production, assembly)