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19 Aug 2019, 13:09
Julian Wettengel

Compact power-to-liquid pilot facility demonstrates high degree of efficiency

Clean Energy Wire

Researchers in Germany have combined all steps of producing synthetic fuel with renewable electricity into one compact facility, with the aim to increase efficiency to the maximum possible, writes the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in a press release. The pilot system initiated by the companies Climeworks, Ineratec, Sunfire and KIT can produce about 10 litres of fuel from CO₂ per day, water and renewable electricity. It uses direct air capture to filter CO₂ from the air, produces hydrogen and carbon monoxide through the co-electrolysis technology, then produces hydrocarbon molecules and optimises the fuels in the final step. "The combination of technologies promises optimum utilisation of the carbon dioxide used and the greatest possible energy efficiency, as the material and energy flows are recycled internally," writes KIT. The joint project aims to develop a 200-litre system next, and then a facility to demonstrate that production at industrial scale is possible.

Using renewable electricity to produce hydrogen, CO₂-neutral methane or liquid fossil fuel substitutes could solve some of the Energiewende’s toughest challenges. While the direct use of renewable electricity is generally preferred because a lot of energy is lost when converting it to make synthetic hydrogen or methane, power-to-x fuels will likely be needed for specific applications, such as heavy-duty truck transport or as energy storage. It is also considered essential to decarbonize many industries currently heavily addicted to fossil fuels, such as steelmaking or chemicals. Start-up Sunfire [Read company portrait here] already runs a pilot project to showcase a path to decarbonise steelmaking by using renewable hydrogen in cooperation with Salzgitter [Find a description of the project and an interview here].

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