Partners from Germany and Finland in the SOLETAIR project are building a compact pilot plant for the production of gasoline, diesel and kerosene from solar energy, regenerative hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The plant will be compact enough to fit into a shipping container.
The plant consists of three components. A direct air capture unit developed by the Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) extracts carbon dioxide from air. An electrolysis unit developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) produces the required hydrogen by means of solar power. A microstructured, chemical reactor—the key component of the plant—converts the hydrogen produced from solar power together with carbon dioxide into liquid fuels. This reactor was developed by KIT. The compact plant was developed to maturity and is now being commercialized by KIT spin-off INERATEC.
The new power-to-liquid plant will be taken into operation at the BIORUUKKI Piloting Center of VTT this year. In 2017, operation is planned to be continued on the campus of LUT. The SOLETAIR project will be completed in mid-2018. It is funded with €1 million by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes).
INERATEC GmbH develops, constructs, and sells compact chemical plants for various gas-to-liquid and power-to-liquid applications. The spinoff is supported under the EXIST research transfer program of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
KIT, INERATEC, and VTT plan to extend their cooperation. Under the national research alliances of “Energy Lab 2.0” and “Neo-Carbon Energy,” work will focus on the investigation and development of innovative energy systems based on renewable energy sources, novel storage technologies, and the conversion of renewable energies into chemical energy carriers.
In addition, KIT and INERATEC are contributing their expertise to the “Power-to-X” Kopernikus project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
The main research topics for the P2X project are:
Medium - and large-scale electrolysis systems for the production of hydrogen from excess wind and solar power, research on materials for high-pressure and high-temperature electrolysis, demonstration projects and optimization with regard to flexibility, efficiency, transit times and costs, reducing the use of precious metal. Testing under real conditions of use, to be expected in the operation with surplus power.
Testing of different process routes for Power-to-Liquid and development of Power-to-Chemicals such as methanol, Fischer-Tropsch fuels, higher-order alcohols, process design, pilot and demonstration projects and comparing alternative paths of conversion on the basis of CO2 footprint and cost, evaluation of systemic aspects including comprehensive cost and benefit analyses.