In Duisburg yesterday Johanna Wanka, German Minister of Education and Research, announced funding of more than 60 million euros for the Carbon2Chem project initiated by thyssenkrupp. The aim of Carbon2Chem is to convert process gases from steel production – including the CO2 they contain – into base chemicals. The greenhouse gas CO2 would then no longer be discharged into the atmosphere. The energy required for the conversion process is to come from renewable sources.
Sixteen partners from the areas of basic and applied research and various sectors of industry are involved in the project. thyssenkrupp and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion have carried out preparatory planning and scientific work. “Carbon2Chem can be an important contribution to climate protection and the transition to renewables,” said Heinrich Hiesinger, CEO of thyssenkrupp AG.
At least ten years of development work will be needed before the process is ready for industrial-scale use. “We therefore need reliable political framework conditions. Without a balance between CO2 standards and maintaining competitiveness, Europe will lose out on innovation,” added Hiesinger.
Carbon2Chem is characterized by broad-based, cross-industrial cooperation. It will create a new network of steel production, electricity generation and chemical production.
At present, gases from steel production are burnt to produce electricity and heat for the production process. Carbon2Chem puts the gases at the start of a chemical production chain. This is possible because steel mill gases include hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon, the basis for numerous chemical products.
CO2 can be used as a raw material by splitting its molecules. This requires hydrogen, which in part is already present in the steel mill gases. Additional hydrogen is to be produced using renewable energies. The processes in the steel mill will be modified in such a way that part of the process gases are diverted to chemical production when low-cost excess electricity is available from renewable sources.
Carbon2Chem’s prospects of success are good because the basic chemical processes and required technologies are largely known. It is already technically possible to convert process gases from steel production into ammonia as a starting product for fertilizers, though not yet cost-efficiently. The process would also utilize some part of the CO2 contained in the steel mill gases. Another possibility would be to produce methanol from mill gases, a process which would utilize almost all the CO2 they contain.
In order to use renewable energies for chemical conversion, catalysts would be required that can cope with sharp fluctuations in the process. More research and development work is required in this area. Cost-efficient methods of producing hydrogen – even with sharp fluctuations in the energy supply – will also have to be developed. Cleaning and processing the steel mill gases is another area requiring further research.
A technical center will be built on the premises of thyssenkrupp Steel Europe in Duisburg this fall to test the Carbon2Chem processes on a pilot scale once the first phase of the project is complete.
Also Clariant, a world leader in specialty chemicals, have announced its participation in the Carbon2Chem project. Today, the project starts the active phase, which will be sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research for an initial period of four years. The project aims at transforming smelting gases from the steel industry into valuable chemicals. Currently, these chemicals are only used energetically – as a source of power generation in the steel power plant. The objective of the Carbon2Chem project is to find a solution for using the smelting gases for the production of materials, for example methanol.
Clariant provides methanol catalysts and the necessary application know-how in order to validate their suitability. Additionally, the company participates in the upstream processing of the smelting gases as methanol can only be won from smelting gases in purified form. For the gas purification, Clariant contributes adsorbents, catalysts and expert know-how on their application.
To sustainably improve the ecological performance of steel production, Clariant considers it an important step to convert the component currents of the smelting gases, which also contain considerable amounts of hydrogen. Martin Vollmer, Chief Technology Officer states: “Clariant supports the project, as its objective – the significant reduction of industrial CO2 emissions – is consistent with Clariant’s commitment to sustainability”.