Electrifying Ideas — Chemicals Produced on Surplus Energy
New Processes – Input of Thermal Energy
In addition to existing plants and processes, a number of other options are currently discussed, preferably for large-scale operations. The aspects to be considered include:
- The part of the plant that is run with flexible load should have the lowest investment cost (usually the reactor).
- All following steps (especially product purification) should be designed for continuous loads according to the maximum sales volume expected.
- This means that raw product needs to be stored. The investment is comparably low, but for dangerous chemicals legal permits will set limits.
- The downstream process should be located close by to avoid additional transport cost.
- The whole process chain has to be designed so that even if all raw product is transferred to storage, storage capacity is not exhausted.
- Fluctuating operation may not be dimensioned for 100 % product sales as storage capacity for the raw product cannot be adjusted freely to all situations on the electricity market.
This list shows that in order to decide on the viability of a flexible process, the whole system has to be analyzed. The selected processes have to be highly dynamic.
The Role of Electrochemistry
“Classical” water electrolysis is the basic element of many power-to-x-concepts for the production of hydrogen, methane or — if chemical production is the target — methanol. A number of production concepts combine hydrogen generation with other steps to achieve a competitive production process; TU Clausthal has developed a scheme that combines water electrolysis with air rectification to provide the resources for the production of ammonia that is then oxidized to nitric acid with the oxygen from the electrolysis. The use of oxygen on site without additional transport is the key to competitive processes.
Organic electrochemistry is also experiencing a revival. The development of new electrodes has opened possibilities for many selective reactions; however, these are often not needed on the necessary scale. An interesting process could be the production of adipic acid; the current process generates N2O that has to be catalytically decomposed.
What conditions have to be considered when analyzing potential processes? Read more on the next page ...
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