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Topsoe puts eSMR demonstration plant into operation for production of sustainable methanol from biogas

Topsoe has begun production at a demonstration plant designed to validate its electrified technology for cost-competitive production of sustainable methanol from biogas as well as other sustainable products.

Topsoe_eSMR demonstration plant

The global annual production of methanol is around 110 million tons. With close to 1.4 ton CO2 being emitted per produced ton methanol, the emission reduction potential is enormous, assuming all methanol is being produced by means of a carbon-neutral process and sustainable feedstock.

The project is supported by the EUDP Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program and is developed together with Aarhus University.

The climate benefits from using sustainable methanol is not limited to one single purpose. Sustainable methanol can be used for marine fuel, blend in gasoline, and for the chemical industry, where methanol is mainly used today.

The main feature in the demonstration plant is Topsoe’s eSMR technology, which enables not only the production of sustainable methanol, but also other sustainable products like green hydrogen, green ammonia,  eFuels, and more.

Fighting climate change demands clean fuels for all sectors. With this initiative, we will demonstrate that we are able to transform classical production process into a fully carbon-neutral scheme. Specifically, we will demonstrate that sustainable Methanol can be produced from biogas at a very competitive cost compared to other green methanol produced from non-fossil fuels.

—Kim Grøn Knudsen, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at Haldor Topsoe

We are very happy about the accomplishments in the joint project so far. The new electrified steam methane reforming technology is central in a future based on renewable energy and circular bioeconomy and the eSMR demo plant fits perfectly into our energy research facility in Foulum. We see many interesting perspectives in this new technology, and we look forward to unlock the potential of further development and integration of the technology in the energy system of the future.

—Thomas Lundgaard, project manager at Aarhus University, Dept. of Biological and Chemical Engineering

The demonstration program is part of Topsoe’s ambition to take part in the global movement to reduce the global carbon footprint and one of many initiatives to develop solutions for sustainable aviation, shipping and heavy transportation in general.

The demonstration plant. Haldor Topsoe is leading the project. The partners are Aarhus University – Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering; Sintex A/S; Blue World Technology ApS; Technical University of Denmark; Energinet A/S; Aalborg University; and PlanEnergi.

The demonstration plant is located at Aarhus University’s research facility in Foulum, Denmark. The plant will have an annual capacity of 10,000 liters of CO2-neutral methanol from biogas and green power and is scheduled to be fully operational by the beginning of 2022.

To produce the sustainable methanol, Topsoe uses its eSMR technology, described in a paper in Science in 2019. eSMR integrates an electrically heated catalytic structure directly into a steam-methane–reforming (SMR) reactor for hydrogen production.

Intimate contact between the electric heat source and the reaction site drives the reaction close to thermal equilibrium, increases catalyst utilization, and limits unwanted byproduct formation. The integrated design with small characteristic length scales allows compact reactor designs, potentially 100 times smaller than current reformer platforms.

Electrified reactor_Globe

Image: Topsoe

The technology produces synthesis gas (syngas), an essential building block in production of polymers (plastics) and chemicals. The eSMR technology is CO2-neutral when based on biogas as feedstock and green electricity for heating. It utilizes half the CO2 that makes up about 40% of biogas and typically is costly to separate and vent in production of grid quality biogas.


  • Wismann, S. T., Engbæk, J. S., Vendelbo, S. B., Bendixen, F. B., Eriksen, W. L., Aasberg-Petersen, K., … Mortensen, P. M. (2019). “Electrified methane reforming: A compact approach to greener industrial hydrogen production.” Science, 364(6442), 756–759. doi: 10.1126/science.aaw8775



This sort of technology demonstrates again that getting on a mono-focused hobby horse of batteries being the only solution to everything entirely misses the point.

We have to decarbonize the chemical industry, and we have to use every tool in the bag to do so.

110 million tons of methanol are not going to be decarbonized by using batteries.

Getting rid of the at 1.5 billion tons of CO2 needs serious engineering.




If the technology succeeds large scale , it can be very useful to the world to reduce pollution.


100 times smaller than current reformer platforms
Methane to methanol to DME to gasoline locally using STG


It is all good. Just one minor problem. There is not enough bio-methane for all of the projects that are proposed to use bio-methane. Quite a while ago when I was a engineering graduate student at MIT, I took a tour of the Boston sewage treatment facility. I was impressed that they were recovering the methane and using it to power all of their pumps. However, they did not have enough methane for other purposes. This was a while ago so maybe they are doing better now but this should be instructive as to what the problem is.


We can make enough for about 10% of the gasoline


Yes, we might have enough bio-methane to make 10% of our gasoline but where would that leave all of the other proposed users. Anyway, it would be better to use it as a precursor for chemical production or to make aviation fuel.


If you're making jet fuel then it's more than 10%

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