Renewable Fuel Concepts
There is no time for debates about whether the combustion engine is here to stay. In science and industry, there is a consensus that combustion engines will keep an important role, despite the massive rollout of battery electric vehicles with higher energetic efficiency. There are three important reasons: a) Intercontinental flights/ships and heavy-duty machinery applications rely on high-density energy storage systems, where batteries are no alternative for combustion fuels. b) Even in applications that are easy to electrify, such as cars, there is a large fleet with combustion engines that cannot be sustainably replaced overnight. c) Fuels are a necessary storage form for energy transports/imports to regions lacking renewable energy, e.g., Germany. Upon close inspection, none of the above reasons implies extending the use of fossil fuels. The ready alternatives are renewable fuels produced by storing bioenergy or renewable electrical energy. The technologies to produce them are available, and there is no excuse to postpone the phase-out of fossil energy carriers in the transport sector. We are engaged in the following projects on renewable fuels:
Oxymethylene ethers (OME)
OME are synthetic renewable diesel fuels that burn extremely clean, are non-toxic, and have a flexible raw material base. They are produced from captured carbon dioxide and renewable hydrogen or biomass. In both ways, synthesis gas (a mixture of carbon monoxide/dioxide and hydrogen) is converted to OME via the intermediate methanol. We are OME pioneers and started in 2009 to measure fundamental reaction and phase equilibrium data in OME systems. Since then, we have conceptually designed several generations of OME processes, including the latest generation of water-tolerant direct syntheses from methanolic formaldehyde mixtures. As part of the BMBF-funded NAMOSYN consortium, we have erected Europe’s first continuous OME plant with a capacity of 8 t/h and successfully demonstrated a water-tolerant process. We are competent partners for an industrial realization. The pilot plant was realized using funding from BMBF in the project NAMOSYN.