Importance of Natural Resources

Solutions for protecting the climate

It’s a typical chicken-and-egg situation. If we don’t have the infrastructure, I can’t run a hydrogen-powered car. But if there are no hydrogen-powered cars,
there’s no economic value in constructing a hydrogen fuel station. That’s why we need to work with our existing infrastructure,
refine it, and use that as our basis. This invention basically involved using carbon dioxide and hydrogen to develop a methanol synthesis process specially tailored to renewable energy needs. Methanol offers a great opportunity to save carbon dioxide without compromising people’s mobility requirements. The actual question our research was based on was therefore, “Can we extend the electricity chain to include hydrogen,
so we get a fuel that’s compatible with our existing infrastructure?” We developed the term “eFuel” with this in mind. The “e” stands for electricity – in other words,
electricity from renewables like photovoltaics and wind power, while the “fuel” part is one that’s compatible with the infrastructure we already have in place. We use electrolysis to produce hydrogen, and then
combine it with CO2 to create methanol. Methanol synthesis in the chemical industry used to require huge plants that ran 24/7 to keep costs to a minimum. But because energy from renewables fluctuates and
isn’t constantly available, we now need a more dynamic process. Electrolysis can accommodate the fluctuations with no problems, and produce hydrogen on a fluctuating basis, so to speak. In other words, we’ve developed a methanol process that works particularly well with renewable energy. Companies and academic facilities can generally work well together if the
academic side has spent many years developing a method and the company has a problem that fits the method. And that’s exactly how we came to join forces. When we assessed the various fuel options available, we made sure we involved the university at the same time to get a clear perspective from the other side. So we looked at ways to utilize chemical reactions and
chemical reactors dynamically, and since Siemens had a particular requirement
for methanol from renewables, you could say it had the perfect problem for our method.

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