Fuels from Thin Air: Drop-In Liquid Fuels from Sky CO2, Water and Solar Power
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) … In the latest news, the Soletair process, developed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology, is using carbon dioxide and solar power to produce renewable fuels and chemicals and has reached an end-to-end small demonstration scale.
The new power-to-liquid plant was initially launched at the BIORUUKKI Piloting Center of VTT, and now has moved to the campus of LUT. The SOLETAIR project will be completed in mid-2018. It is funded with €1M by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.
The aim of the project is to demonstrate technical performance and produce 200 liters of fuels and other hydrocarbons for R&D.
The pilot plant is coupled to LUT’s solar power plant in Lappeenranta, and demonstrates the entire process chain, from solar power generation to hydrocarbon production.
The demo plant comprises four separate units: a solar power plant; equipment for separating carbon dioxide and water from the air; a section that uses electrolysis to produce hydrogen; and synthesis equipment for producing a crude-oil substitute from carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
The plant consists of three components. The direct air capture unit developed by the Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) extracts carbon dioxide from air. An electrolysis unit developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) produces the required hydrogen by means of solar power. A microstructured, chemical reactor is the key component of the plant and converts the hydrogen produced from solar power together with carbon dioxide into liquid fuels. This reactor was developed by KIT. The compact plant was developed to maturity and is now being commercialized by INERATEC.
Pilot-scale plant units have been designed for distributed, small-scale production. It is so compact that it fits into a ship container and produces gasoline, diesel, and kerosene from regenerative hydrogen and carbon dioxide.Production capacity can be increased by adding more units.
Information gathered during the project will be useful for the commercialization of the technologies. New business opportunities will arise for companies such as those benefiting from the carbon circular economy or surplus electricity, or for chemical companies.
Second, let’s await the results on catalyst life, cost and yield before we break out the bubbly — the search for the catalytic Methuselah is proving to be daunting when it comes to biosphere — although fair to say that a lot of the catalyst-poisoning impacts seen with biomass (for example, too much steam from the water released from feedstock) would not be a factor here.