Research project 'Carbon2Chem' makes progress

The Carbon2Chem processes will be tested in a pilot plant to translate the results of basic research to industrial scale. Work started last November on the construction of a technical centre on the premises of thyssenkrupp Steel in Duisburg, Germany.

At present, gases from steel production are mainly used in power plants to produce electrical energy and heat for the production processes. But the process gases, including CO2, could also be used as raw materials.
At present, gases from steel production are mainly used in power plants to produce electrical energy and heat for the production processes. But the process gases, including CO2, could also be used as raw materials.

The ten-year research project 'Carbon2Chem' is developing ways of converting steel mill gases into raw materials for chemical products.

Much of the greenhouse gas CO2 contained in these gases would then no longer be discharged into the atmosphere. Sixteen further partners from the areas of basic and applied research and various sectors of industry are involved in the project. Carbon2Chem is being funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

In recognition of this exemplary commitment to climate protection, Dr Heinrich Dornbusch, senior managing director of the climate change initiative KlimaExpo.NRW, recently officially added the project to the initiative at the 21st Expert Congress on Future Energies organised by Energie-Agentur.NRW as part of the ‘E-world Energy and Water’ trade show in Essen.

To mark the event, Dr Dornbusch handed a certificate of inclusion in the showcase to Dr Reinhold Achatz, chief technology officer of thyssenkrupp. To symbolise this 221st step of the ‘1,000 steps into the future’, which KlimaExpo.NRW will be presenting up to 2022, Dr Dornbusch took shoe prints from Dr Achatz.

“The research project Carbon2Chem shows how intelligent climate protection can be. It uses state-of-the-art technology to convert CO2 from a climate killer into a raw material,” said Dr Dornbusch.

Dr Achatz was delighted to receive this honour: “Sustainability is part of thyssenkrupp’s business model. Climate protection is one of our strategic targets. Only recently, we were classified by the non-profit organisation CDP as a global leader in climate protection.”

At present, gases from steel production are mainly used in power plants to produce electrical energy and heat for the production processes. But the process gases – including CO2 – could also be used as raw materials. ‘Carbon2Chem’, the collaborative project initiated by thyssenkrupp, aims to show how. The project is investigating ways of using steel mill gases to produce chemicals. This would also mean that the greenhouse gas CO2 would no longer be discharged into the atmosphere. The energy required for the chemical processes is to come from excess electricity from renewable sources. It will be roughly ten years before the technology is ready for industrial-scale use.

The basic chemical processes and technologies required for the industrial use of steel mill gases are largely known. It is already technically possible to convert process gases from steel production into ammonia as a starting product for fertilisers, though not yet cost-efficiently. This process would also recycle part of the CO2 contained in the steel mill gases. Another possibility would be to produce methanol from mill gases, a process which would recycle almost all the CO2 they contain.

But fluctuations in the generation of energy from renewables still present a challenge: catalysts are needed for the chemical conversion process that can cope with these sharp fluctuations. More research and development work is required in this area. Cost-efficient methods of producing hydrogen – even with sharp fluctuations in the energy supply – will also have to be developed. Scrubbing and preparation of the steel mill gases is another area requiring further research.

Work started last November on the construction of a technical centre on the premises of thyssenkrupp Steel Europe in Duisburg, Germany. The Carbon2Chem processes will be tested in a pilot plant at the roughly 2,600 square metre building complex to translate the results of basic research to industrial scale. The centre is scheduled for completion in spring 2018.

Sixteen further partners from the areas of basic and applied research and various sectors of industry are involved in the Carbon2Chem project. BMBF is providing over 60 million euros of funding for Carbon2Chem.

KlimaExpo.NRW is a cross-department initiative called into life by the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany, to use the energy transition, climate protection and the need to adapt to the consequences of climate change as driving forces for sustainability in industry and society. The aim is to present successful projects in innovative formats to a broad public, both nationally and internationally, and to encourage additional commitment to climate protection. KlimaExpo.NRW highlights the technological and economic potential of North Rhine-Westphalia in this field. It is both a showcase and a think tank for NRW – not just at one location on one day, but throughout the state until 2022. An interim presentation of the KlimaExpo.NRW projects will take place throughout NRW in 2017 with funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

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