We need to recycle carbon – a short sentence that nevertheless clearly describes the Carbon2Chem® project. An improvement in climate protection requires not only a reduction in CO2 emissions but also a reduction in the use of fossil fuels. Extensive efforts by industry are constantly reducing its energy requirements and the emission of climate-damaging gases. However, in some cases, thermodynamic and economic limits have been reached within the processes. As a rule, new innovative processes are not yet available for large-scale use.
At this point, cross-industry networks offer the energy- and emission-intensive industrial sectors the opportunity to make a sustainable contribution. The joint Carbon2Chem® project aims to use gases from the steelmaking process as a valuable raw material source for the chemical industry. The project is coordinated jointly by Fraunhofer UMSICHT, thyssenkrupp AG, and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion (MPI-CEC). The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)..
Using renewable energies, unavoidable carbon dioxide emissions from the steel industry are to replace fossil raw materials in the chemical industry. To this end, a cross-industrial production network will be set up comprising the steel industry, the chemical industry and the energy industry. Process gases from smelting used to date for energy production serve as raw materials for the production of synthetic fuels, plastics and other basic chemicals. The modular approach to CO2 use within cross-industry networks enables the combination of climate protection and competitiveness for large industrial sites in Germany and other parts of the world.
During the first project term for Carbon2Chem® (June 2016 to May 2020), the focus lay on developing and researching suitable processes. This centered on technical feasibility and evidence of cost-effectiveness and sustainability. The second phase of Carbon2Chem® will validate the developed processes for large-scale implementation and thus lay the foundations for low-emission steel production. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has made a further 75 million euros available for this by 2024. The partners involved are planning investments of more than 100 million euros by 2025.
The joint project also takes on the challenge of considering the economic dimension of a transformation of this kind, such as how jobs can be secured while also contributing towards climate neutrality, even in other CO2-intensive industries such as cement and lime works and waste incineration plants.
With the milestones achieved in the individual lighthouse projects during the first phase of Carbon2Chem® (June 2016 to May 2020), the foundations and prerequisites for the second phase, which runs from June 2020 to May 2024, were created. This included the provision of a dedicated laboratory building for the project with 500 m2 of laboratory space and 30 office workstations on the Fraunhofer UMSICHT campus. This is where processes are developed for gas purification using defined gases as well as to produce methanol and higher alcohols, which then undergo further tests in the specially built pilot plant station with real gases. The pilot plant station offers 3700 m2 of space and is directly next to the thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG premises in Duisburg.
During the second project phase, the focus lies on long-term tests both in the laboratory and in the pilot plant station. The technical processes should be further validated and upscaled for industrialization from 2025.
The subproject L-III “Synthesis Gas” will also intensively look into the composition, purification, and treatment of steel mill gases at the thyssenkrupp site in Duisburg during the second phase. This is the starting point for subprojects L-II, L-III, L-IV, and L-V, which are concerned with the different product paths, methanol, urea, higher alcohols, and polymers. Subproject L-I “CO2 Sources and Infrastructure” is a new addition. It looks into the transfer of Carbon2Chem® technology to various industrial CO2 point sources, such as power stations, waste incineration plants, and cement works. There is also a focus on how a suitable infrastructure for hydrogen and carbon dioxide might look for major carbon capture and utilization (CCU) solutions.
The individual elements are ultimately brought together in an optimized, coherent plant network by the overarching subproject L-0 “System-Integration”. For this system integration, simulation calculations are performed and investigations conducted into cost-effectiveness and sustainability.
The subproject L-KK “Coordination and Communication”, which supports the coordination of the overall project and communication both within the consortium and externally, is a further new addition. thyssenkrupp AG, the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, and Fraunhofer UMSICHT are responsible for the overall coordination of the joint project. Subproject L-KK is additionally intended to develop suggestions for the regulatory framework for a climate-neutral industry by 2050.