Energy Process Engineering
- Renewable Gasfield
- Methane pyrolysis
- Innovation Liquid Energy
- Renewable Steel Gases
- Underground Sun Conversion
- Spin-Off-Fellowship ZKS Trenntechnik
- ReOil - Kunststoffabfall innovativ rezyklieren
December 2018- November 2020
The project deals with an integrated strategy for the local utilization and long-term storage of renewable electricity from fluctuating sources (photovoltaic, wind). The renewable power is converted in energy carriers like hydrogen and methane in order to enable a demand based, local utilization as well as an injection into the natural gas grid (Power-to-Gas).
Based on the national climate strategy of Austria, 100 % of electric power generation should be provided by renewable sources until 2030. Beside wind power and photovoltaic plants, also biomass, hydro power as well as geothermal power plants are used.
In the area of south Styria, renewable electricity generated by a 1 MWp photovoltaic plant is used for the operation of a PEM electrolyzer. An already existing biogas plant is currently operated with part load. The produced green hydrogen will be used for converting the CO2 in the biogas (about 45 Vol.% of the total biogas) by catalytic methanation into methane without a prior separation of the CO2. The produced synthetic methane is injected into the existing local natural gas grid. Thus, the sectors industry, mobility and domestic are supplied by green energy according to their local requirments.
January 2018 - December 2021
Development of a stationary electricity storage system via high temperature co-electrolysis and catalytic methanation
Conventional Power-to-Gas systems (storage of renewable electricity in CO2 neutral gases) are based on water electrolysis and optionally subsequent methanation. A novel, totally integrated system of CO2 and H2O high temperature Co-electrolysis (CO-SOEC) and catalytic methanation is developed in the flag ship project HYDROMETHA. The combination of these processes as well as the optimization of the components and the operating parameters enable a significant increase of the conversion efficiency of up to 80 %el. By system simplifications, enhanced life time and the optimization of the total process chain, substantial cost reductions are anticipated resulting in an increased market potential. Furthermore, operative strategies are developed based in real life requirements in the energy market, including part load, stand-by and load follow operations. The core system of the CO-SOEC with coupled methanation will be erected as 10 kWel functional unit, and tested in long-term experiments. Fife industrial partners are linked to the consortium as advisors enabling a market oriented development already in an early stage of research.
Hydrogen is an important energy source and reducing agent for chemical and metallurgical processes, as it contributes to the decarbonisation of various industry sectors, e.g. steelmaking, but also to mobility or production of synthetic hydrocarbons. Although no CO2 is emitted due to the utilisation of hydrogen, production processes with low CO2-emissions are necessary. The methane pyrolysis would be such a process. It refers to the generation of hydrogen from methane or rather natural gas, whereby methane is decomposed into hydrogen and solid carbon. Different process designs are possible for this purpose. Such routes have already been investigated in an exploratory project at Montanuniversitaet Leoben in cooperation with several chairs and industrial partners. Besides a comparably low energy requirement, also solid carbon being the by-product is a positive aspect of the methane pyrolysis. Carbon offers a wide range of possible applications, which are also being investigated within the research activities.
In the course of a program for hydrogen production at Montanuniversitaet Leoben, several chairs will cooperate to further advance the process development of methane pyrolysis. As a part of this collaboration also a joint pilot plant will be built, where the most promising process routes can be tested on a larger scale. For example, a liquid metal bubble column reactor and a plasma reactor will be set up. The chair of process technology and environmental protection takes on the product gas treatment for the pilot plant, which includes the removal of solid carbon as well as the separation of hydrogen and unreacted methane. In addition to these experimental investigations, modelling and simulation of the pyrolysis process are conducted. Specifically, CFD-simulations of a reactive bubbly flow in liquid metal are carried out in the research group energy process engineering.
June 2018 - May 2022
Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS) (Grant Agreement Nr. 800659)
i3upgrade aims to valorize carbon containing steel gases by means of hydrogen intensified synthesis and innovative process control systems. A special focus is paid to the catalytic methanation of process gases which are generated under dynamic and transient conditions in an integrated steel mill. By utilization of green hydrogen synthetic methane is synthesized which covers the internal demand on natural gas of the steel mill, and thus the CO2 emissions are reduced.
In the frame of the European Union funded project, the research group investigates the effects of continuously changing process parameters (i.e. pressure, Gas composition, volume flow, available hydrogen) on the methanation reaction and the used catalyst. Beside others, a nickel coated honeycomb catalyst on cordierite basis is manufactured, and characterized in the laboratory methanation plant under dynamic operating conditions. The performance is compared with commercially available conventional bulk catalysts.
Further information: www.i3upgrade.eu
In the project „Innovation Flüssige Energie“ (IFE) a system for the highly efficient generation of CO2-neutral synthetic fuels is being designed and subsystems are being developed. A Solid Oxide Co-Electrolysis (Co-SOEC) is combined with an efficient CO2 extraction and a Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process. The plant produces synthetic diesel, naphtha, and waxes from water and carbon dioxide. The SOEC is operated as co-electrolysis which generates H2 and CO in one process step. Together with the thermal coupling of the Co-SOEC and the FT process, a significantly higher degree of efficiency can be achieved compared to alkaline and PEM low-temperature electrolysis and downstream FT processes.
The system is designed for a maximum electrical input power of 1 MW, which enables the production of about 500,000 litres of synthetic fuel per year. The research focus for VTiU is on the assessment and selection of an appropriate CO2 extraction method as well as on the establishment of a process concept for upgrading the Fischer-Tropsch products.
Further information: iwo-austria.at/innovation-fluessige-energie
March 2017- February 2020 (finished)
Implementation of renewable energy in steel production for the enhancement of energy efficiency and for the reduction of CO2 emissions.
Energy rich CO-, CO2- and H2- containing gases are generated in different processes of an integrated steel mill. According to the state-of-the-art these gases are used as energy carriers only. In the frame of this project, complete process chains for the utilization of these steel gases are developed and experimentally investigated. Hydrogen is sourced by either water electrolysis or gasification of biomass in a dual fluidized bed. The steel gases are subsequently catalytically converted to methane. Special focus is given to a synergetic integration (i.e O2 utilization) of the power-to-gas plant and the biomass gasification into the steel mill process.
Main targets are a significant reduction of the CO2 emissions, the enhancement of the energy efficiency of the production and the chemical storage of excess renewable electricity which can be utilized inside and outside of the integrated steel mill.
First, hydrogen is produced from solar or wind power and water, in an above-ground facility, and then injected with carbon dioxide into an existing (porous) natural gas reservoir. At a depth of over 1,000 metres, in a relatively short time naturally occurring microorganisms convert these substances into renewable gas which can be stored in the same reservoir, withdrawn as needed at any time, and transported to consumers via the existing pipeline network. The aim of the research project is to use existing gas (pore) reservoirs as natural bio-reactors. The methanation process and storage take place naturally in underground pore reservoirs. This represents a huge source by potentially providing the urgently needed flexibility which renewable energy sources currently lack. Initial laboratory tests conducted as part of the forerunner project, Underground Sun Storage – which is also supported by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund – show that hydrogen and carbon dioxide injected into the reservoir are converted into methane by microbiological processes. This enables the creation of a sustainable carbon cycle. Laboratory tests, simulations and a scientific field test at an existing RAG reservoir will be carried out in collaboration with a group of project partners. A further objective is to test whether the outcomes can also be achieved at many other reservoirs all over the world. The striven results are therefore of outstanding importance for a successful energy transition.
We contribute as scientific partner to this project with process technological aspects of the plant scale-up as well as with the development of a process concept for an industrial plant size using in-situ biological methanation in a depleted gas reservoir (geomethanation) for SNG production, particularly for the surface infrastructures (gas intermediate storage, gas conditioning, chemical (catalytic) post-methanation, electrolysis unit and their optimal linkage).
Further information: www.underground-sun-conversion.at
The project was successfully finished by February 2021.
The urgent need for reducing CO2 from anthropogenic sources creates the necessity of developing new systems and/or readjusting current ones. The intention of this project is the inclusion of waste gas streams from energy intensive sources (typical from the petrochemical, steel or refractory industry) being rich in CO2 into reforming processes in order to produce syngas. Due to the complexity of the processes, plenty emission points are available as CO2 input for the reforming. The largest CO2 emission sources in the steel industry are the blast furnace (BF) accounting for 65% of the overall emissions, the coke plant and the sinter plant with 27% and 6% respectively. In the case of petroleum refineries, furnaces and boilers are responsible of 65% of the emissions, whereas for the catalytic cracker or gasifier the emissions account for 16%.For the refractory industry, 70% of the CO2 emitted is bounded to the treatment of the raw materials and less than 20% come from the thermal energy required in the process.
In the “Tri-Reforming” project, CO2 is catalytically converted to synthesis gas by addition of methane and steam resulting in varying CO/H2 ratios. The CO2 is not captured from the exhaust gases but the exhaust gas is directly reformed. In the catalytic reactor, steam reforming, dry reforming and partial oxidation are taking place simultaneously. By adding steam and methane, the inert gas share is significantly diluted in the product gas. For the experimental investigation of the reforming process, a new laboratory plant will be erected and operated.
Currently, plastic waste is predominantly used as waste derived fuel in cement kilns or other combustions. Mechanical recycling of plastic waste plays a minor role because the available waste materials are often to heterogeneous for a further processing to high quality recycling plastics. An attractive alternative is chemical recycling, i.e. the decomposition of the plastics in their building blocks or petrochemical intermediates, which are subsequently used for the synthesis of virgin plastics. Chemical recycling demands a mechanical pre-treatment of plastic containing waste. The mechanical pre-treatment is a combination of well-known dry mechanical treatment steps with a novel wet mechanical separation step in a centrifugal force separator combined with a jig. This technology has been developed in co-operation with the chair of mineral processing and the chair of waste treatment and waste management at Montanuniversität.
The wet mechanical treatment process with the centrifugal force separator as core apparaturs has been extensively tested and optimized in the past years. The technology was awarded several prices like the ÖWAV price 2018 and the nomination to the Energy Globe Austria Award in 2019. In 2018, the “Spin-off Fellowship” program has been lanced by FFG, and the centrifugal force separator has been awarded as one of the first projects a public funding for preparation of the formation of a start-up company. The fellows Dr. Markus Bauer and Daniel Schwabl currently prepare the foundation for the year 2020, and already work on the first orders for plants from industry.
In the European Union, 25 Million tons of plastic waste is generated annually, whereby about 40 % are ephemeral packaging waste. In order to reduce fossil resources and to enable the required recycling rates, the ReOil process is an attractive option for feedstock recycling of plastic waste by pyrolysis. In the process also contaminated and mixed plastic waste fractions can be exploited for which a classical mechanical recycling is not possible. Polymer waste is heated up to temperatures above 400°C in inert atmosphere resulting in thermal cracking of the polymer chains. The derived product has properties of a synthetic crude oil which can be further processed in existing refinery infrastructure to petrochemical products, feedstock for polyolefin and fuels.
We work on the further development, the optimization and the scale-up of this process as co-operation partner of industry. Main focus is given to the potential feedstock and its preprocessing, the influencing parameters for operation and on the product spectrum, and particularly the reaction mechanisms as well as the kinetic of the thermal crack process. Beside experimental work on laboratory and pilot plants, model building and simulation are applied.
Schubert, T., Lechleitner, A., Lehner, M., & Hofer, W. (2019). 4-Lump kinetic model of the co-pyrolysis of LDPE and a heavy petroleum fraction. Fuel, 116597. doi: 10.1016/j.fuel.2019.116597
Schubert, T., Lehner, M., Karner, T., Hofer, W., & Lechleitner, A. (2019). Influence of reaction pressure on co-pyrolysis of LDPE and a heavy petroleum fraction. Fuel Processing Technology, 193, 247-211. doi: 10.1016/j.fuproc.2019.05.016