Carbon2Chem: when emissions become valuable substances

innovation | Sustainability and climate protection | When it comes to climate protection, we have set ourselves a very clear goal: we want to become climate-neutral by 2050 – and reduce our emissions by 30 percent by 2030. One focus is on steel production, where a large amount of CO2 is released. Therefore, sustainable solutions must be found to reduce the emissions of this "climate killer". One of these solutions – a truly innovative one – is Carbon2Chem.

Carbon2Chem is a unique, large-scale project in which the gases that are produced during steelmaking, especially the climate-damaging CO2, are no longer burned but transformed into valuable raw materials such as methanol or ammonia. This long-term project was inaugurated on 20 September 2018 at the “Technikum” next to thyssenkrupp steel mill in Duisburg. Since then it has been in a practical test phase. Dr. Lukas Lücke, project manager for water electrolysis, is satisfied with the results to date: “We were able to celebrate the successful commissioning of our water electrolysis plant as part of the Carbon2Chem project at Easter last year. In the meantime, we have been able to show that the plant is very stable and reliable but can also be operated in a highly flexible manner. This is a core requirement for use in an industrial environment and especially for the direct integration of renewable energies”.

At the Carbon2Chem pilot plant on thyssenkrupp's steel location Duisburg, the company is working on converting CO2 and other metallurgical gases into valuable starting materials for new products. This will bring the company a decisive step closer to its goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050.

At the Carbon2Chem pilot plant on thyssenkrupp’s steel location Duisburg, the company is working on converting CO2 and other metallurgical gases into valuable starting materials for new products. This will bring the company a decisive step closer to its goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050.

The next big step: a large-scale solution

But the real challenges are just beginning. Two issues are at the top of the agenda. Dr. Lüke: “On the one hand, further optimization of the process and individual core components in order to further increase the cost efficiency of electrolysis. On the other hand, the application of the knowledge gained from operation in the C2C pilot plant in commercial plants.”

This transfer of the technology into a large-scale industrial solution could start in about 15 years. Then Carbon2Chem has the potential to make about 20 million tonnes of the annual CO2 emissions of the German steel industry economically viable. But even beyond Germany’s and Europe’s borders, the technology is extremely attractive, since there are about 50 steel mills around the globe that are eligible for Carbon2Chem. The big vision: an almost CO2-free steel production.

In addition to the steel industry, the technology can also be transferred to other CO2-intensive industries. Thus, Carbon2Chem can make a major contribution to climate protection and the success of the energy transition. And it can also show that climate protection and competitive industry doesn’t need to be a contradiction.

Dr. Lukas Lücke at the Water Electrolysis plant of Carbon2Chem. After the successful commissioning in spring 2018, his team impressively demonstrated that the plant runs very stable and reliable – and is highly flexible in operation, too. This insight is a milestone for the large-scale industrial application planned for the future.

Dr. Lukas Lücke at the Water Electrolysis plant of Carbon2Chem. After the successful commissioning in spring 2018, his team impressively demonstrated that the plant runs very stable and reliable – and is highly flexible in operation, too. This insight is a milestone for the large-scale industrial application planned for the future.

At a glance: This is how Carbon2Chem works

For the production of chemical raw materials, Carbon2Chem uses the exhaust gases of the steel mill, the so-called metallurgical gases. These gases contain chemical elements such as nitrogen, hydrogen and especially CO2, which are processed to so-called synthesis gases. These synthesis gases are precursors for methanol, ammonia or polymers, which are the bases of fuel, fertilizers or plastics.

In the conversion process hydrogen is needed. But its production needs a lot of electricity. At Carbon2Chem, however, this electricity comes exclusively from renewable energies and only, when there is an oversupply and the green electricity is particularly cheap. Therefore, Carbon2Chem’s carbon footprint is regarded as exemplary in this respect as well.

About thyssenkrupp’s climate strategy

Sustainability plays a special role for us at thyssenkrupp. In particular, we have received several awards in recent years for our contribution to climate protection. So, it is only logical that we set ourselves a particularly ambitious goal for the future: climate-neutral by 2050. Find out how we intend to achieve this here.

Author

Chetan Sathe
  • written by Chetan Sathe
  • 10. July 2019

Dear Sir,
As per your write-up: “These synthesis gases are precursors for methanol, ammonia or polymers, which are the bases of fuel, fertilizers or plastics”.

What sorts of polymers we can produce through Carbon2Chem? Will it be through normal Syngas to Chemicals route or any alternate way tkIS is evaluating?

    Sorry for our late reply. We have just asked our experts and will come back to you!

    Dear Chetan, we have just received the info you asked for:

    Polymer production is being researched in the sub-project L5 by, among others, Covestro. thyssenkrupp itself is not involved in this sub-project.

    With Carbon2Chem, our experts are particularly researching the isocyanate and polycarbonate production from metallurgical gases (CO and CO2). Here, we focus on different synthesis routes.

    Our Industrials Solutions business provides classical polymer synthesis routes (methanol-to-olefins etc.) in its portfolio. However, these are not part of the Carbon2Chem project yet.

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