Topsoe to build demonstration plant to produce cost-competitive CO2-neutral methanol from biogas and green electricity

The demonstration plant will be located at Aarhus University’s research facility in Foulum, Denmark, and receives funding from EUDP Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Programme

Topsoe’s eSMR technology may reduce the traditional steam reforming unit found in most chemical plants from the size of a six-story building, 30 metres in length, to just a few cubic metres.
Topsoe’s eSMR technology may reduce the traditional steam reforming unit found in most chemical plants from the size of a six-story building, 30 metres in length, to just a few cubic metres.

The demonstration plant, scheduled to be fully operational in the beginning of 2022, is expected to demonstrate that sustainable methanol production from biogas can compete with traditional methanol production based on fossil fuels.

“We look forward to repeating the very promising results we have achieved in the laboratory at an industrial scale. We want to show that sustainable methanol can be produced from biogas at a cost similar to that of traditional methanol produced from fossil fuels. The eSMR Methanol technology is about 100 times smaller than the traditional units, which makes it a very attractive solution for decentral biogas sites and world-scale producers alike,” says Peter Mølgaard Mortensen, principal scientist at Haldor Topsoe.

Today, biogas in grid quality is much costlier to produce than the natural gas it replaces. If biogas producers can produce sustainable methanol instead, they will be able to increase their production value significantly and compete on commercial terms with fossil-based products. Methanol is used as a clean fuel, or an important intermediary in the production of many chemicals and polymers (plastics).

The eSMR Methanol process is CO2-neutral when based on biogas as feedstock and green electricity for heating. It even utilises the CO2 that makes up about 40% of biogas and typically is costly to separate and vent in production of grid quality biogas.

eSMR Methanol is based on Topsoe’s eSMR technology that was published in the Science magazine recently. The ground-breaking technology produces synthesis gas (syngas), an essential building block in production of polymers and chemicals. It may reduce the traditional steam reforming unit found in most chemical plants from the size of a six-story building, 30 metres in length, to just a few cubic metres. The extremely compact technology replaces the natural gas-fired heating of traditional steam reformers with direct electric heating of the catalytic process.

We see the electrified reactor as the next logical step for the chemical industry. With this approach, producers get a viable way to transform the industry going towards greener processes without increasing production cost,” says Mortensen.

Haldor Topsoe is an industry leader in catalysts, proprietary technology, and process design for the production of syngas. The company helps customers produce syngas from natural gas and a wide range of alternative feedstocks, including waste and biomass. Its tailor-made solutions are always optimised to provide the highest carbon efficiency and purity while using the least amount of energy and resources.

Haldor Topsoe is leading the eSMR Methanol project, which includes the partners Aarhus University, Sintex, Blue World Technology, Technical University of Denmark, Energinet, Aalborg University, and PlanEnergi. The project is supported by the EUDP Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Programme.

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