Future Energy System, Meeting of VGB Technical Committee – Fraunhofer UMSICHT, Germany, 11-12 September 2019

The Carbon2Chem® project Thyssenkrupp
A memorandum of understanding between IEACCC and VGB allows us to attend the VGB technical committee (TC): “Future Energy System”. VGB attends our ExCos. The new committee provides enhanced value to VGB and the members from sharing information on a wide range of technologies and is charged with providing guidance to VGB on how to shape the future integrated energy landscape in Germany and Europe.

The meeting was hosted by Fraunhofer UMSICHT, and the focus was on CO2 utilisation for a future circular economy. After presentations by Fraunhofer, led by Tim Schultzke, on both the strategies and several of the technologies being developed, we had a tour of the facilities.

Below is just a flavour, not every topic is mentioned here – there were many excellent presentations and the tour showed some of the equipment for some of this work. Fraunhofer manages a lot of contract research in Europe, apparently €2.6 bn of research funds. We were introduced to the IN4CLIMATE.NRW, SCI4CLIMATE.NRW and CARBON2CHEM projects, that embrace high level strategies, planning and roadmaps for North Rhine-Westphalia. The objective is to secure the industrial future for the region while achieving the 95% CO2 reduction by 2050 that is required. This will be through cross-industry research and technology and organisational innovations as well as solving regulatory barriers.

The CARBON2CHEM project is an example of a cross-industry initiative to connect the cokemaking and different steelmaking processes by adding hydrogen from coke ovens, augmented by electrolytic hydrogen, to CO2/CO mixtures from BOF and blast furnaces and catalytically form chemical products.

This would lengthen the carbon utilisation chain, if not yet circularise it. We also had a more detailed presentation later, on alcohol synthesis using steel mill gases over Cu/Zn catalysts.

Another talk was their work on vanadium redox flow batteries, which have perhaps better sustainability properties than Li-ion batteries, although their charge/discharge cycles are slower. Apparently, China dominates electrolyte production.

We also had a talk on and a tour of facilities on a form of compressed air energy storage.

The meeting resumed the next day with round the table self-introductions by the attendees, followed by presentations, including one by myself on CCU, for part of which I drew on slides from Toby Lockwood’s and Qian Zhu’s recent works, and for which I am indebted to them.

This was followed by Carsten Henriksen, of Orsted, describing Power2X activities in Denmark. Biogas, from small facilities owned by farmers, is seen as expanding rapidly due to generous financial subsidies as natural gas usage decreases strongly by 2050.

A workshop is planned for May 2020 on storage technologies and power-to-X. A discussion was held on its scope and language (now agreed to be in English).

Future topics for the Technical Committee were discussed.
The next meetings of the Technical Committee will be held in March and September 2020. The latter may be close to the VGB Congress, which will coincide with 100 years of the organisation.