Duisburg / Lünen, 20 January 2015. – A valuable fuel has evolved from an unloved by-product of conventional power generation. A consortium with energy plant constructor Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Europe (MHPSE) acting as system integrator is setting up a plant in which carbon dioxide from a coal power plant and hydrogen are converted into methanol.
“Methanol can be simply admixed with petrol and diesel and by way of standard operations processed into various motor fuels”, explains Rainer Kiechl, CEO of the MHPSE Board of Directors. “It is also in great demand as a basic material for processing in the chemical industry.” According to Mr. Kiechl this technology also permits large-scale storage of wind and solar power.
The hydrogen is derived from an electrolysis process in which water is decomposed into its hydrogen and oxygen constituents. The surplus electricity from alternative generation forms could provide the energy for the electrolysis. Through carbon recycling, this brings about a huge storage and value creation potential for solar and wind power.
The project which has just started at the Lünen power plant site of STEAG GmbH is an international cooperative venture of a number of firms / research institutions. It is funded by the European Union*. The project involves EUR 11m funded to over 80% by the EU under the “Horizon2020″ research program.
At the demonstration plant, carbon dioxide will be converted into a ton of fuel from one megawatt of power per day. It is thus the first plant which puts this technology onto an industrial footing. The total plant is made up of several components planned and set up by the partners. As system integrator, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Europe is there to ensure smooth interaction of the components and their flexible running.
Belgian company Hydrogenics supplies the electrolysis unit and Carbon Recycling International (CRI, Iceland) the methanol installation. Also very much involved is Duisburg-Essen University whose carbon dioxide scrubber at the power plant site has demonstrated its operating efficiency. The Hydrogenics and CRI technologies are in use commercially but not in the constellation as planned at Lünen. The other partners include Genoa University, Cardiff University, the Catalysis Institute (Slovakia) and I-deals (Spain). The ground-breaking ceremony for the demonstration plant is scheduled for 2016. Operations will start during 2017.
Installation functioning in brief: the carbon dioxide arising from coal-derived electricity is precipitated from the flue gases in a special downstream flue gas scrubber (Post-Combustion Capture, PCC). Electricity is used to decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen in an electrolysis unit. Carbon dioxide and hydrogen are then converted into standard methanol (CH3OH) in a methanol installation.
The 1MWel installation at the Lünen power plant is designed to produce approx. one ton of methanol per day. In so doing, 1.4 tons of carbon dioxide are made use of which otherwise would get into the atmosphere. Although a tried-and-tested process, direct methanol synthesis has not as yet been used in combination with a utility power plant and under load-flexible operations. There is no difficulty to up-scaling the system. Installations of up to 200 MW can be implemented relatively rapidly and efficiently operated. This kind of large-scale installation would produce up to 180,000 tons of methanol a year and thus stop emissions of up to 260,000 tons of CO2.
Aside from utility power plants, other industries with high CO2 emission rates such as steel mills, chemical works, refineries and cement plants are suited for methanol synthesis. As well as CO2 emission reduction, the “MefCO2″ (Methanol fuel from CO2) project has other benefits. An installation such as this can take up surplus electricity from renewable energies and thus help to stabilize the power grid. Moreover, the process is competitive and is not reliant on subsidies.
MHPSE has both the know-how and the components required for setting up an installation such as this on a commercial scale. Together with its parent company, it has extensive references on hand in CO2 precipitation / flue gas scrubbing. For over 10 years, consortium partner CRI has been effectively operating methanol installations in combination with geothermal power plants in Iceland. Hydrogenics has been supplying industry with electrolysis units for some considerable time now. Today the technology is available – to the exclusion of any subsidies – for converting CO2 into petrol and diesel or into basic materials for the chemical industry.
Diagram of methanol synthesis using carbon dioxide from coal power plants. Diagram: MHPSE
*”Synthesis of methanol from captured carbon dioxide using surplus electricity” which is funded under the EU funded SPIRE2 -Horizon 2020 with the Grant agreement no: 637016
Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Europe (MHPSE), a subsidiary of globally operating Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, Ltd., designs and constructs fossil-fired power plants. The plant constructor also supplies key components such as utility steam generators, environmental engineering equipment and turbines. As market and technology leader – in utility steam generators, for instance – MHPSE very much places its trust in modern, ecologically sound and efficient plants. Including subsidiaries, approx. 1800 staff are on the company’s payroll.
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