Carbon cycle

Joint project


Carbon2Chem® joint project

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 energy, 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.


In the sub-project System Integration, work is being conducted on creating and designing the cross-industry production network as well as identifying suitable technology modules. A core task here is integrating the necessary technology modules into a cross-industry network with the smelter. The provision of a synthesis gas of consistent quality for chemical production is a major challenge.

A central element is the simulation of the planned overall system in order to be able to plan essential aspects of product selection, process logistics, and process control. Both the economic efficiency and the sustainability of the overall system are evaluated based on the simulation results. At the same time, the simulation enables conclusions to be drawn regarding the work in the other sub-projects.

The task of the sub-projects concerning possible chemical products is to adapt or develop the necessary technology modules for the production network. The partners have access to the project's own laboratory at the Oberhausen site and the project's own pilot plant station in Duisburg to conduct the joint work. While the work is carried out in the laboratory with defined gas mixtures, the work in the pilot plant station can be carried out with real gases from the steelworks. This is an important step for the subsequent implementation.

Another important component is the provision of the hydrogen required for the chemical processes, which is also being investigated in a separate Carbon2Chem® sub-project. The focus here lies on the production of hydrogen by means of water electrolysis using volatile renewable energies. A larger plant in the pilot plant station and several small test benches are operated for this purpose.

As part of Carbon2Chem®, Fraunhofer UMSICHT is developing technologies and system solutions for gas purification, but also for the catalytic production of methanol and higher alcohols, and for fuel production – adapted to the use of prepared metallurgical gases in each case. The institute also plays a central role in setting up the simulation platform and developing suitable process concepts as part of the System Integration sub-project.

CO2 reduction in the steel and chemical industries

The goals of Carbon2Chem® briefly explained.

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Systems integration

Process and plant simulation makes it possible to describe the interaction between different industrial plants in a plant network as a "cross-industry network" as well as analyzing their dynamic system behavior.



Water electrolysis in non-stationary operation

Research into dynamic water electrolysis while taking into account the varying supply of metallurgical gases as well as fluctuating, renewable electricity represents the core of this subproject.



Sustainable methanol production

In order to produce methanol economically from metallurgical gas, the conventional catalyst must be put to the test. The conventional process also needs to be adapted.



Gas purification

Different gas utilization options require an adapted cleaning process chain for the raw gases. The process steps are adapted, tested and optimized on a pilot scale using real gas. Innovative process approaches are investigated on a laboratory scale.



Higher alcohols

Development of a process to use coupling gases from a steel mill for the production of C2+ alcohols, which are used as fuels and chemical intermediate products.




Plastics are mostly produced on the basis of fossil raw materials such as crude oil. They provide the element carbon, which is essential for this. But there are alternatives: A consortium is pointing them out.



Oxymethylene ethers

Oxymethylene ethers are a new class of oxygenated compounds that could be used in diesel and gasoline fuels to replace the fossil hydrocarbons currently still used in these fuels.