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Geely invests in Carbon Recycling Intl.; vehicles fueled by methanol from CO2, water and renewable energy

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely Group) will invest a total of US$45.5 million in Carbon Recycling International (CRI). The investment consists of an initial investment and additional purchases of CRI equity over a 3-year period. Geely Group will become a major shareholder of CRI and will gain representation on the company’s Board of Directors.

CRI, founded in 2006 in Reykjavik, Iceland, is developing technology to produce renewable methanol from clean energy and recycled CO2 emissions. Geely Group and CRI intend to collaborate on the deployment of renewable methanol fuel production technology in China and explore the development and deployment of 100% methanol-fueled vehicles in China, Iceland and other countries. The companies say they a vision for a larger role for methanol as a clean and sustainable fuel worldwide.

Geely is committed to achieving the long-term goal of zero emissions mobility through a diverse suite of new energy solutions, including renewable methanol vehicle technology. Geely Auto has invested significant resources in the development and promotion of methanol-fueled engines and vehicles over a long period and has already made progress with this technology in China. This investment will build on our existing methanol technology, facilitating even more valuable solutions and helping to propel this part of our business in China. It will also allow us to promote advanced methanol technology in Europe. CRI have a proven track record in renewable methanol, working up and down the value chain. I’m excited to be working with them. This is an important symbol of Geely Group’s global commitment to sustainability.

—Li Shufu, Chairman of Geely Group

Geely’s CRI investment and work with renewable methanol is similar to the approach Audi is taking with its own e-fuels projects—producing very low carbon liquid or gaseous fuels using only renewable energy, water and CO2. (Earlier post.)

Geely Auto was the first auto manufacturer in China to conduct research and development into methanol vehicle solutions in 2005, and has since acquired dozens of patents. (Earlier post.) Geely’s Englon SC7 sedan was the first methanol-fueled car to receive approval from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The company is proactively working with partners across China to expand the use of methanol-fueled vehicles. In late April 2015, Geely Auto deployed a first-of-its-kind fleet of 150 methanol-fueled taxis in the southern Chinese city of Guiyang in cooperation with the municipal government. The project will be followed by similar initiatives in Shanghai municipality, Jinzhong in Shanxi province, and Baoji in Shanxi province.

Methanol-powered vehicles are one pillar of Geely Auto’s diversified new-energy strategy, which also encompasses ethanol, CNG, gasoline-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid, pure-electric, and extended-range solutions.

Geely Group comprises a number of automotive brands, including Volvo Car Corporation, the United Kingdom’s London Taxi Company, and the Geely Auto brand, which markets cars in 35 countries across the world.

Image
Carbon Recycling International’s Emission to Liquid (ETL) technology consists of a system of electrolytic cracking and catalytic synthesis, leading to a low pressure and low temperature electrochemical production process. Click to enlarge.

Vulcanol is CRI’s brand name for renewable methanol, produced from CO2 and hydrogen from renewable sources of electricity (hydro, geothermal, wind and solar). Its first commercial-scale production plant obtains carbon dioxide from gas emissions from a geothermal power plant and hydrogen via electrolysis of water using renewable sources of energy from the Icelandic power grid (from hydro, geothermal and wind sources).

CSI says this is the world’s first production of a liquid renewable transport fuel from non-biological sources of energy. Currently the company has a 4,000 metric ton/year production capacity.

Vulcanol is fuel-grade methanol, a clean burning, high-octane fuel that can be blended with gasoline for automobiles and used in the production of biodiesel or fuel ethers (DME, MTBE, OME etc.). Renewable methanol is also a low-carbon feedstock for production of synthetic materials.

Vulcanol from CRI’s current production plant reduces full lifecycle carbon emissions by more than 90% compared to fossil fuels. The process is certified by SGS Germany according to the ISCC Plus system, based on standard ISCC EU methodology for calculation of GHG emission in the product lifecycle.

CRI is presenting at the 4th Conference on CO2 as Feedstock for Fuels, Chemistry and Polymers, being held at the end of September in Essen, Germany.

Methanol in China. Methanol can be produced from a range of renewable sources and fossil-fuel based feed-stocks; in practice methanol is mainly produced in coal-rich China from coal. Because of China’s coal reserves, the country has viewed methanol as a viable alternative for gasoline; methanol and methanol-blended gasoline are used in more than 20 provinces.

Although methanol-fueled vehicles can reduce regulated emissions, comparably higher carbonyl emissions, in particular formaldehyde, remain a challenge. At the 2015 SAE World Congress, researchers from the Beijing Institute of Technology presented a paper evaluating regulated emissions, carbonyl compounds and particulate matter from a China-5 certified gasoline/methanol dual-fuel vehicle over the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).

From 2009, led by the Ministry of Industry and Information, the pilot work of methanol gasoline implement is Shanxi province started. At the same time, 2 domestic car manufacturers started the development of dedicate methanol models that can burn M85 and M100.

In the same year, national standards for M85 and M100 were also promulgated. After 3 years of exploration, many defects of low content methanol gasoline were found, so focus had been turned to the application of M85 and M100 since 2012. Most recently, methanol-fueled prototypes are being tested in 3 provinces of China. The Ministry of Environmental Protection is planning a forcible emission standard for methanol-fueled light-duty vehicles, in which carbonyl pollution will be legislatively capped and the limit value is under discussion. Currently in China, there is only a temporary limit value of 10mg/km, which was regulated by the Ministry of Industry and Information prior to the pilot work of methanol implement.

—Wang et al.

Their results showed that in comparison with gasoline mode, CO emitted in methanol mode decreased 11.2%. There were no evident changes of THC and NOx emissions. Total carbonyls and formaldehyde increased by 39.5% and 19.8% respectively after switching from gasoline to methanol.

However, the testing showed a “remarkable” decrease of 65.6% in particulate matter in methanol mode. Finally, on the test vehicle, burning methanol instead of gasoline reduced tailpipe CO2 emissions by 8.8%. The BIT researchers estimated that a 30% fuel-cost saving could be attained if methanol was burnt even though the price of crude oil has decreased by more than 50%.

In a 2014 paper examining the methanol fuel strategy in China, the researchers from the Key Laboratory of Shaanxi Province for Development and Application of New Transportation Energy noted that:

The Chinese government is developing the fuel methanol industry by promoting high content methanol gasoline, determining a reasonable pricing method and strengthening organization and management. These strategies are closely linked to the economy. Developing M85 and M100 increases the substitution share of methanol for gasoline and actually aims at expanding the industry, increasing employment opportunities and promoting economic growth. A reasonable pricing method has been set up for market regulations and economic development. In regard to organization and management, achieving greater security is a primary concern, because there are huge losses in connection with human life, property and the economy in the production and transportation processes.

To sum up, these strategies are formulated mainly from an economic and moral perspective, and these two social factors are directly linked to development and security. However, environmental factors influence society more profoundly and permanently. Accordingly, environmental factors should be considered to be at least as important as the two social factors.

—Chen et al.

Delving into the emissions side, Chen et al. cited one study showing that the full lifecycle (well-to-wheel) CO2 emissions from M85 (with coal-derived methanol) are 2.5 times higher than that from gasoline. The methanol production process from coal (coal gasification, gas purification and distillation, and methanol synthesis) is the main contribution to the increased CO2 emissions.

Resources

  • Wang, X., Ge, Y., Liu, L., and Gong, H. (2015) “Regulated, Carbonyl Emissions and Particulate Matter from a Dual-Fuel Passenger Car Burning Neat Methanol and Gasoline,” SAE Technical Paper 2015-01-1082 doi: 10.4271/2015-01-1082

  • Sileghem, L., Ickes, A., Wallner, T., and Verhelst, S. (2015) “Experimental Investigation of a DISI Production Engine Fuelled with Methanol, Ethanol, Butanol and ISO-Stoichiometric Alcohol Blends,” SAE Technical Paper 2015-01-0768 doi: 10.4271/2015-01-0768

  • Hao Chen, Lu Yang, Peng-hui Zhang, Andrew Harrison (2014) “The controversial fuel methanol strategy in China and its evaluation,” Energy Strategy Reviews, Volume 4, Pages 28-33 doi: 10.1016/j.esr.2014.07.002

  • China Association of Alcohol & Ether Fuel and Automobiles (2014) Methanol Fuel and Vehicles in China: An Overview of Industrial Applications (2014)

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