Future chemicals could be generated from shale gas, biomass, residual materials and waste gas — In fact, chemical companies and institutes around the world are working on the material use of CO2 and other effluents. Are projects like Carbon2Chem bringing about a new era of recycling management?
A climate-neutral smelter. Chemistry from waste gases. Innovative power storage. These are the aims of the Carbon2Chem project, which wants to use emissions from the steel industry to produce chemicals. If applied consistently, 10 % of the CO2 emissions of an industrialised country like Germany could be avoided, according to experts.
The synthesis of ammonia and methanol from CO, CO2 and hydrogen are particularly promising. This would make two tried-and-tested basic chemicals of which several million tons are needed worldwide available from renewable sources.
Chemicals from the Smokestack
This vision of “chemicals from the smokestack” is not new: Researchers have been working on methods for the material use of the extremely reactive waste gas molecules for decades. It took almost forty years until, in 2016, processes such as the production of PUR foams with CO2 (PROCESS Worldwide reported) made the leap from the laboratory to industry.
Now, a Thyssenkrupp smelter in Duisburg, Germany shall bring the prove that waste gas chemistry does not have to remain just a pipe dream. The largest blast furnace in Europe, the highest chimney of German steel mill measuring 250 metres and more than 75 million tons of pig iron in 20 years of operation alone underline the scale of the project.
Things are not done by halves in Duisburg, which, in the eyes of many experts, makes the steel industry the perfect candidate for the utilisation of CO2 and Co. — the industry is, after all, responsible for 51 million tons of CO2 per year.
From Laboratory to Operation
In 2016, Thyssenkrupp (TK) established a technical institute that should test results from basic research on an industrial scale. The demonstration for gas purification and water electrolysis will cost the Group 33 million euros. “If the project is successful, CO2 pollution from steel production will be significantly reduced.
At the same time, Carbon2Chem can make an important contribution to the stabilization of the energy networks,” explained Heinrich Hiesinger, Chairman of the Board for TK at the ground-breaking ceremony.
The challenges are huge, however: The waste gases from steel production are not pure substances, but rather a mixture of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen together with various trace elements, the exact composition of which can change regularly.
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