In a breakthrough that marks a leap forward for the hydrogen economy, scientists at Stralsund University of Applied Sciences have succeeded in producing bio-methanol directly from hydrogen derived from wind power and carbon dioxide (CO2), eliminating the need for expensive buffer storage technology. Liquid methanol can be transported and stored without risk and can be used as a carbon-neutral fuel for combustion in engines, for heat and power and industrial production.
The synthesis technology was developed at a purpose-built small conversion plant at the university’s Institute for Renewable Energy Systems (IRES). In chemical terms, power-to-methanol (liquid) has a better “C-H ratio” than power-to-methane (gas), because one hydrogen atom less is needed, which reduces the investment costs for electrolysis by a quarter.
In real terms, this means that surplus electricity produced by wind plants in northern Germany can now cost-effectively be transported to another part of the country for use in industry or transportation, for example. As methanol is already widely used as a green energy source, no new infrastructure is needed to drive uptake.
The team at IRES uses green electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis. The hydrogen is then converted into methanol using CO2 in a special process (called FlexMethanol) developed by one of the consortium partners bse Engineering Leipzig GmbH. The plant is capable of producing 28 litres crude methanol per day.
"We can achieve the energy turnaround if we use the existing and partially unused resources of electricity and carbon dioxide to replace fossil fuels in the existing infrastructure,” says Christian Schweitzer, managing director of . “In the future, the fuel cell suitable crude methanol as well as the cleaned methanol will be sold industrially as e-fuel.”