Carbon Recycling International (CRI) is part of a consortium of European industrial partners and research centres that have been awarded a EUR 3 million grant under the EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme to develop a new type of high temperature electrolyser with superior efficiency, using a novel solid electrolyte.
Over the course of the last ten years, CRI has developed a pioneering process to convert CO2 from industrial sources into liquid fuel. This undertaking has involved all stages of research, technology development, engineering and operation to realise the initial concept of CO2 recycling, progressing from the laboratory development stage to operating a commercial demonstration plant.
Initial work on the development of the innovative Tubular Proton Ceramic Electrolyser technology was carried out by the consortium in the ELECTRA project that ended in 2017. In the second phase, entitled GAMER, promising results from ELECTRA will be exploited to design, build and operate a prototype device over a period of 2,000 hours.
The GAMER consortium will also build advanced computer modelling and simulation tools, enabling the consortium to explore alternative designs to take further steps towards introducing this electrolyser technology to the market, and by doing so, create a breakthrough in the field.
Hydrogen electolysers are used to decompose water into oxygen and hydrogen gas by passing an electric current through water. Total energy demand drops considerably when water is shifted from liquid to gas phase and development of high-temperature electrolysis has therefore received continuing attention.
Higher operating temperatures, removal of water vapour from the hydrogen, instability and thermal stress remain significant challenges for the development of hightemperature electrolysers. The Proton Ceramic Electrolyser design aims to overcome these challenges.
The Proton Ceramic Electrolyser will be thermally coupled to waste heat sources in industrial plants. The combination of the novel design and efficient heat integration will enable the system to achieve significantly higher combined electrical and heat efficiency than current alternatives.
Although hydrogen from renewable electricity has a much lower carbon footprint than hydrogen obtained from petrochemical or natural gas sources, traditional industry has been reluctant to abandon the traditional methods for economic reasons.
The Proton Ceramic Electrolyser technology could enable industrial producers to reduce energy consumption in renewable hydrogen production, providing an even more competitive and environmentally sound alternative to the traditional fossil energy based hydrogen production method.
“We take great pride in our participation in the GAMER project, sharing our knowledge and experience to advance the science of green technology.“ said Sindri Sindrason, CEO of CRI. “Significant advances enabling us to achieve a cleaner future will require collaborative effort, which is why cooperation is one the core values of CRI,” Sindrason remarked.
“CRI also hopes to take advantage of the technology developed by the “GAMER“ consortium, in order to further increase competitiveness of CRI‘s innovative Emmissions-to-Liquid (ETL) process.”
CRI has previously enjoyed success following the completion of the George Olah Renewable Methanol Plant in Svartsengi, near Grindavik, Iceland in 2012.
K-C Tran, CEO of Carbon Recycling International, said at the plant opening: “Building the George Olah Plant establishes the keystone for a fleet of carbon recycling plants in the future.”
The name of the plant honors George Olah, Nobel Prize Laureate in chemistry and co-author of the book Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy. In 2015 CRI expanded the plant from a capacity of 1.3 million litres per year to more than 5 million litres a year. The plant now recycles 5.5 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide a year which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.
All energy used in the plant comes from the Icelandic grid, which is generated from hydro and geothermal energy. The plant uses electricity to make hydrogen which is converted into methanol in a catalytic reaction with carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is captured from flue gas released by a geothermal power plant located next to the CRI facility. The origin of the flue gas are geothermal steam emissions.
The production process creates no toxic byproducts as the sole chemical released is oxygen which is created as the plant uses electricity to split water into its constituent chemicals. Renewable methanol from the plant is then sold to the market where it is blended with gasoline and used in the production of biodiesel, in Iceland and abroad.
According to an independent audit by SGS Germany using a protocol established by ISCC, the use of renewable methanol from the plant releases 90% less CO2 than the use of a comparable amount of energy from fossil fuels. The small amount of emissions caused by the production and use of renewable methanol is related to the CO2 released by geothermal power plants which provide about 30% of the energy on the Icelandic grid.