Synthetic Fuels: Successful Coupled Operation of Container Plant System at KIT

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
The container plant at Energy Lab 2.0 produces up to 200 l synthetic fuel mix per day. (Photo: Amadeus Bramsiepe, KIT)
The container plant at Energy Lab 2.0 produces up to 200 l synthetic fuel mix per day. (Photo: Amadeus Bramsiepe, KIT)

Use of synthetic fuels can minimize greenhouse gas emissions of aircraft and heavy-duty transport in future. Thanks to a power-to-liquid plant built? set up? by INERATEC, which Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and its spin-off operate together at Energy Lab 2.0, this appears to be within reach. The modular plant is accommodated in a container and planned to be produced in series by INERATEC.

“This is the last step on the way towards its industrial use,” says Professor Roland Dittmeyer from KIT’s Institute for Micro Process Engineering. “Plants of this design will contribute to making the global transport sector and chemical industry more sustainable with e-fuels and e-chemicals.” The plant is located at Energy Lab 2.0 on KIT’s Campus North. It produces a synthetic fuel mix, called syncrude, from carbon dioxide (CO2) and renewable hydrogen (H2). This syncrude can then be processed to synthetic kerosene, diesel, and gasoline. “Two reactor stages are required. We have coupled them for the first time and operate them with an improved design at a scale relevant to technology development,” Dittmeyer says. “We can produce up to 200 l of fuel per day.”

Innovative Technology by INERATEC

In one of the reactor stages, the long-chain hydrocarbons of the syncrude are produced from synthesis gas that mainly consists of carbon monoxide (CO) and H2 by means of Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FT synthesis). The synthesis gas is produced by reverse water gas-shift reaction (RWGS) in the other upstream reactor. The RWGS reactor consists of microstructured plates that ensure flexible operation of the plant and enhance efficiency. The new plate design has now been demonstrated successfully in coupled operation. “With the optimized RWGS reactor, reactions can be controlled more precisely and the process is improved significantly,” says Dr. Tim Böltken, one of the managing directors of INERATEC. Every hour, up to 3 kg of hydrogen from electrolyzers can be processed. “This corresponds to an input of 125 kilowatts and sets new standards worldwide,” Böltken adds.

Series Production in the Next Step

Demonstration of INERATEC’s RWGS reactor technology on this scale represents the last important step in university research. The company plans to start series production soon and to quickly supply inexpensive power-to-X technology by further scaling, standardization, and reproduction. The corresponding IMPOWER2X project of KIT’s spinoff is funded with EUR 2.5 million by the European Union.

Already in 2019, during the first funding phase of the Kopernikus project P2X, the world’s first fully integrated plant for the production of “fuel from air and green power” was taken into operation at KIT. The plant produced about 10 l of synthetic fuels per day and combined CO2 separation from air with high-temperature electrolysis for synthesis gas production, FT synthesis, and product processing to fuel. Now, in the second funding phase of P2X, also this alternative process chain will be scaled to 250 kilowatts at Energy Lab 2.0. From 2022, it will produce about 200 to 300 l fuel per day directly from the air’s CO2. (mhe)

More information: https://www.elab2.kit.edu/english/193.php

More about the KIT Energy Center: https://www.energy.kit.edu/

Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,600 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 23,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

mhe, 22.07.2021

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