Carbon2Chem® – A Key Building Block for the Climate Protection

This joint project aims to lay the foundations for a circular carbon economy.

Aim | Milestones | Facts and figuresCarbon2Chem® subprojects | Video: CO2 reduction in the steel and chemical industry

Carbon2Chem® represents a key building block for the climate protection in industry. Improving climate protection means not only reducing carbon emissions but also decreasing or eliminating use of fossil-based raw materials. Industry companies are making continuous, intensive efforts to throttle back their energy consumption and cut their emissions of gases that harm the environment. However, in some cases, they are coming up against the limits of what can be done in terms of the processes’ thermodynamic and economic requirements. Most new, innovative techniques are not now ready for large-scale use.

In this context, cross-industry networks offer industry sectors with high energy consumption and emission levels the opportunity to contribute to sustainability. The purpose of the joint project Carbon2Chem® is to turn industry process gases such as smelting gases from steel production into a valuable source of carbon for the chemical industry. The project is being coordinated by a team consisting of Fraunhofer UMSICHT, thyssenkrupp AG and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion (MPI-CEC) and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Aim

The aim of the project is that, in the future, fossil-based raw materials in the chemical industry will be replaced with unavoidable carbon emissions from the industry sector, all through renewable energy. A cross-industry production network consisting of representatives from the basic materials industry, the chemical industry and the energy sector is being established to achieve this. Process gases and waste heat from the steel, cement and lime sectors can be used as a source material for producing synthetic fuels, plastics and other basic chemicals. Taking a modular, step-by-step approach to carbon utilization in cross-industry networks allows large industrial sites in Germany and other parts of the world to protect the climate while still remaining competitive.

The first phase of the Carbon2Chem® project (June 2016 to May 2020) focused on developing and researching suitable methods. Other core elements of this initial phase included demonstrating technical feasibility and proving that these methods are not only economically viable, but also sustainable. In the second phase of Carbon2Chem®, the researchers aim to confirm that the methods developed in phase one are suitable for large-scale use, thus laying the foundations for a low-emission basic materials industry. The BMBF has provided further funding for the second phase, amounting to 75 million euros to be drawn down by 2024. The project partners are investing additionally more than 100 million euros by 2025.

However, the joint project must also tackle the challenge of addressing the domestic economic issues involved in this transformation. For example, the partners must consider how to strike a balance between avoiding job losses and helping other industries with high CO2 emissions, such as cement, lime and waste heat recovery plants, play their part in achieving climate neutrality.

Milestones

The milestones achieved in the individual lighthouse projects of the first Carbon2Chem® phase (June 2016 to May 2020) laid the foundations required for the second phase, which is running from June 2020 to May 2024. For example, a designated laboratory building was set up for the project on the Fraunhofer UMSICHT campus, with 500 m2 of lab space and 30 office work stations. This space is being used to develop purification techniques for specific gases and to produce methanol and higher alcohols, which then undergo further testing with real gases in the specially built technical center. The technical center has a surface area of 3,700 m2 and is located right beside the factory premises of thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG in Duisburg.

During this second phase, the researchers are focusing on long-term testing in both the laboratory and the technical center. Their aim is to validate their technical methods further and scale them up for industrial use from 2025 onward.

The second phase will also see the team for the synthesis gas subproject L-III conducting intensive work on the composition, purification and processing of smelting gases at the thyssenkrupp location in Duisburg, as well as other process gases. This is also the jumping-off point for the subprojects L-II, L-III, L-IV and L-V, which focus on various different products, namely methanol, urea, higher alcohols and polymers. The subproject L-I on CO2 sources and infrastructure is a new addition. This subproject will deal with the issue of transferring the Carbon2Chem® technology to various industry point sources for CO2, such as lime, waste incineration and cement plants as well as changes in the steel industry. Another focus area for this subproject is considering what might be a suitable hydrogen and carbon dioxide infrastructure for large-scale carbon capture and utilization solutions.

Finally, the results of the individual subprojects will be compiled to form an optimized, uniform group of plants in the overarching system integration subproject, L-0. To achieve this integrated system, the researchers are conducting simulated calculations and investigating its economic viability and sustainability.

The L-KK subproject on coordination and communication is another new addition for phase two. This subproject will support the coordination of the overall project as well as communications within the consortium and with external parties. The overall coordinators of the joint project are thyssenkrupp AG, the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion and Fraunhofer UMSICHT. The L-KK subproject team also intend to formulate proposals for regulations for achieving a climate-neutral industry sector by 2045.

Facts and figures

Image brochure

CO2 reduction through cross-industry cooperation between the steel, chemical and energy industries – a look at the second funding phase of Carbon2Chem®.

Project structure

Fundamental research, applied research, and industry come together in Carbon2Chem®. A look at the structure of this collaboration.

Facts and figures

From the launch of the project to the present day: important key figures relating to Carbon2Chem®.

Glossary

What are steel mill gases? What are the benefits of a cross-industrial approach? And what role do renewable energies play in Carbon2Chem®? A brief explanation of important terms in the context of the joint project.

1.10.2020

CIT issue

Chemie Ingenieur Technik – CIT
Carbon2Chem® Part 3 (October 2022)
Volume 94, Issue 10

Laboratory and pilot plant station

How can gases from the steelmaking process be used as a valuable raw material source for the chemical industry? Answers are given in various locations.

Interviews

Whether highlights or challenges – project coordinators and partners offer insights into the research work in interviews.

FONA

Information from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research on the status of the joint project Carbon2Chem®.

Electronic press kit

Our electronic press kit offers you consolidated information on the Carbon2Chem® joint project and on our conferences. 

Carbon2Chem® subproject

Second project phase | 1.6.2020 to 31.5.2024

 

Subproject L-KK

Coordination and Communication

The project’s own central office takes care of coordination and internal and external communication for the entire network. Solutions for achieving a climate-neutral industry by 2050, particularly with regard to the regulatory framework conditions, are additionally being developed.

 

Subproject L-0

System-Integration

The work focuses on bringing together the activities from the other subprojects. The available process concepts are developed and optimized according to process-related, energetic, and sustainable perspectives from the viewpoint of the overall system.

 

Subproject L-I

CO2 Sources and Infrastructure

Solutions that have already been developed should be transferred to other CO2-intensive industries such as the cement and lime industries as well as thermal waste treatment. Evidence should be provided here that the Carbon2Chem® technology modules are able to minimize cross-industrial CO2 emissions.

 

Subproject L-II

Dynamic Methanol Production from Steel Mill Gases

The aim is to specifically elaborate the process concepts developed in the first project term with regard to producing methanol from the byproduct gases from steel mills. The scale-up of the laboratory to the pilot plant in the pilot plant station is a particular focal point.

 

Subproject L-III

Synthesis Gas

The aim is to demonstrate the robustness of the previously developed concepts to purify steel mill gases, to synthesize various chemicals and, in particular, for system integration. An industrial implementation should be feasible with the completion of the second project term.

 

Subproject L-IV

Higher Alcohols

The focus lies on developing an overall catalytic process to directly convert treated byproduct gas into short-chain alcohols, olefins, and synthetic fuels. This process should then progress to the demonstration stage.

 

Subproject L-V

Carbon2Polymers

The research and development of new (partial) processes to produce polycarbonates lie at the heart of the subproject. The use of byproduct gases as a material gives the chemical plastics industry access to an alternative raw material basis, thus reducing the use of fossil raw materials such as crude oil.

Subproject L-VIII

eMethanol car

Video: CO2 reduction in the steel and chemical industry

The goals of Carbon2Chem® briefly explained.

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Using renewable energies, the Carbon2Chem® joint project aims to replace fossil raw materials with unavoidable carbon dioxide emissions from the steel industry. CO2 will thus become a raw material for the chemical industry.

1st Project phase – 2016 to 2020

Archive | 15.3.2016 – 31.5.2020

Competencies of Fraunhofer UMSICHT