Production of liquid fuels from regenerative electric power is a major component of the energy turnaround. The first 200 litres of synthetic fuel have now been produced from solar energy and the air’s carbon dioxide by Fischer-Tropsch synthesis under the Soletair project. Here, Ineratic, a spinoff of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), cooperated with Finnish partners to develop a mobile chemical pilot plant that can be used decentrally to produces gasoline, diesel, and kerosene from regenerative hydrogen and carbon dioxide. It is so compact that it fits into a shipping container. “Success of the energy transition needs innovations generated by research extending from fundamentals to applications,” says Professor Thomas Hirth, KIT vice president for Innovation and International Affairs. “The success of Soletair reflects the importance of international research networks that tackle global challenges and develop applicable solutions.”
The pilot plant has a production capacity of up to 80 litres of gasoline per day. In the first campaign now completed, about 200 litres of fuel were produced in several phases to study the optimum synthesis process, possibilities of using the heat produced, and product properties. The compact plant is designed for decentralised production, fits into a shipping container, and can be extended modularly. In June 2017, the plant network was opened officially by Jamie Hyneman, honorary doctor of the project partner LUT and hosts the “MythBusters” science television series. The special effects expert is entrepreneur, innovator, and patent holder himself. His program has contributed significantly to making science and engineering more popular. The US American develops safety technologies for industry and the public space. When opening the Soletair pilot plant, he impressively demonstrated the improved combustion and ignition properties of the synthetic fuel produced compared to conventional fuel. Ineratic GmbH is a spinoff of KIT and develops, builds, and commercializes compact chemical facilities for gas-to-X and power-to-X applications. The spinoff is supported under the Exist research transfer program of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Last week, Ineratic won the third prize in the category of “Emission Reduction, Processing, and Separation” in the Baden-Württemberg 2017 competition for the Environmental Technology Award.
Under the national research alliances of “Energy Lab 2.0” and “Neo-Carbon Energy,” KIT, Ineratic, and VTT intensify their cooperation for the investigation and development of innovative energy systems based on renewable energy sources, novel storage technologies, and the conversion of renewable power into chemical energy carriers. Together with other project partners, KIT and Ineratic also study decentralized production of high-quality synthetic fuel from air and renewable power under the “Power-to-X” Kopernikus project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. “The energiewende will only be a success, if we pool our know-how and jointly strengthen the competencies of European industry in the energy sector,” VTT scientist and Soletair project head Dr. Pekka Simell says. “In this respect, innovative startups, such as Ineratic, play a key role,” Professor Roland Dittmeyer, Head of KIT’s Institute of Micro Process Engineering, adds.