“The Right Chemistry”
Interview with Professor Görge Deerberg, deputy director of the Fraunhofer UMSICHT research institute
What technological hurdles still need to be overcome before Carbon2Chem can be integrated into heavy industry?
Basically, three essential aspects play a big role. The first is the provision and purification of the corresponding raw material gases. Of course, they can’t be used directly to make chemicals. First, they have to be purified and conditioned. In other words, the right conditions have to be set up so that they can be used in a chemical stage. This is a technological issue that can be addressed with gas purification and appropriate processes. Another aspect that plays a major role here is synthesis: the catalytic processes that then convert this gas into marketable products.
Can you tell us more about this synthesizing process?
In principle, these processes already exist on a large scale. That’s why we’re quite confident that we’ll be able to implement our ideas in a very short time. But you also have to adapt these new gases to a new raw materials basis. Many of the processes we are talking about here operate on a natural gas basis today, and we now have to switch over to a CO2 basis, indeed to a carbon mixture. That’s what comes, for example, from the steel or cement plant. And this is still a technical and logical challenge: manufacturing economical and high-quality products.
And the third aspect you mentioned?
The third aspect are the dynamics. Right now, chemical production goes on continuously and statically. That is, it always runs the same around the clock because fuel, i.e. natural gas or crude oil, is continuously available. In our process that will change. Carbon dioxide won’t always be available in the same quantity, nor will it always be of the same quality. The processes have to be adapted accordingly to deal with these dynamics and this volatility. Those are the scientific and technical challenges. And a final challenge is, of course, that sufficient renewable energy has to be available to run these processes. Because if we do this with a conventional carbon-based or fossil energy supply, then nothing is actually gained in the end.
Photo: Roman Studio