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SunFire acquiring staxera to support development of technology to generate synthetic fuels from renewable energy sources, water and CO2

Sunfire
Concept of the SunFire process. Click to enlarge.

Bremen, Germany-based SunFire is acquiring staxera, a developer and manufacturer of SOFC high-temperature fuel cells sited in Dresden, from Webasto, a supplier to the automotive industry. The acquisition will enable SunFire—the developer of a process to generate renewable fuels from CO2 and H2O—to extend its expertise along the value chain by adding the technical core component for the required electrolysis process.

The process developed by SunFire begins with the decomposition of water into hydrogen and oxygen by using electrolysis, driven by renewable electrical energy (derived from sunlight, wind or water). A subsequent step is the reaction of hydrogen and the CO2 to form renewable, synthetic gasoline, diesel and kerosene. An important precondition for the economic viability of the process is a high efficiency of the electrolysis.

SunFire claims that the achievable efficiency is approximately 70%—i.e. more than two-thirds of the electrical energy used reappears in the fuel produced. Approximately 2.6 kg of carbon dioxide and 1.1 kg (1.1 L) of water are required to produce one liter (0.83 kg) of gasoline or diesel fuel.

staxera develops, manufactures and sells SOFC high-temperature fuel cells. A wide range of liquid and gaseous fuels can be used to generate electricity and heat in high-temperature fuel cells. Fuel cells are suitable for both mobile applications and for decentralized, stationary applications such as residential microCHP units using natural gas, biogas or wind gas.

Electrolysis reverses the principle of the fuel cell, while the components of electrolysis and fuel cell stacks are very similar. Thus staxera is in a good position to develop highly efficient electrolyzers and fuel cells.

The acquisition means that SOEC high-temperature electrolysis will be added to staxera’s product portfolio. The combination of both business sectors means that synergies can be utilized and future production costs will be reduced, thus also strengthening the existing SOFC business, the companies say.

Webasto will remain a silent partner in staxera, while focusing on growth in its main sectors, i.e. roof and thermal systems.

The sites of SunFire in Bremen and staxera in Dresden will remain in place. Carl Berninghausen will become chairman of the management board.

Comments

SJC

I could see using reversible SOFCs to use solar heat and light to electrolyze water to H2 and O2 to augment biomass to fuel operations. The oxygen is used for the gasification and the hydrogen is used to make more fuel from each ton of biomass.

We have also seen that SunDrop and others are using concentrated solar heat energy to gasify biomass, thus getting more fuel from each ton. This is yet another way to get more from less using the sun, which should be in abundance where crops are grown.

Aussie

This sounds similar to the Audi e-gas system though they don't nominate a source of concentrated CO2. The 70% recovery of electrical input sounds impressive. If reversible fuel cells could make syngas at 70% efficiency, store it simply then turn it back to electricity perhaps the round trip efficiency could be over 40%. A hydrogen based system (Stuart Island) was 7% efficient if I recall.

Unlike heavy and perishable chemical batteries this could store energy for megawatt level generation later on. What we need to know is the EROEI and the price per litre equivalent of the synfuels.

Engineer-Poet

It would not surprise me if the SOFC is used to electrolyze CO2 and H2O simultaneously, producing a synthesis gas stream and an oxygen stream. The synthesis gas would be converted to product in an external reactor.

This gets back to the issues of F-T or MTG processing, and whether it's worth converting the infrastructure to methanol. Aside from efficiency, MeOH spills are certainly less damaging than hydrocarbons.

SJC

The latest electrolyzers are 70%, this just uses SOFCs do to that. You could get better efficiency by heating the SOFC stack using concentrated solar thermal. They do not say what they do with the O2. You still need 40 kWh to get a kilo of H2, some would say if you are going to create 40 kWh of electricity, just put it on the grid.

I would rather use the H2 AND O2 that comes from this and gasify biomass. It uses of both gases to produce more fuel per ton. That way you have CO/H2 from the gasification and if you need more H2 you can gas shift react the CO and H20. But in the finally analysis, I would just use the biomass with solar gasification and gas shift, forget the H2 and O2 of electrolysis.

SJC

After further thought, I would not do the solar thermal either. Natural gas is SO cheap, it is a source of heat and hydrogen.

The main feature here is turning CO2 into CO in the stack. This is the advantage over regular electrolyzers, if you need to do that.

SJC

Take the CO2 from the natural gas and use it back in the process to make fuel. Using CO2 twice cuts emissions in half.

Engineer-Poet

Two issues there:

  1. We need a lot more than a 50% emissions cut.
  2. Making the system dependent on fossil fuels as a feedstock for the "alternatives" is more or less a guarantee of sales for the fossil producers.

SJC

GTL makes a liquid fuel that can be used in cars with NO modifications. I consider that an alternative and so is BTL.

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