George Olah CO2 to Renewable Methanol Plant, Reykjanes, Iceland
George Olah carbon dioxide (CO2) to renewable methanol plant is located at the Svartsengi geothermal power station in the town of Grindavik in Reykjanes, Iceland.
The facility was developed at a cost of ISK1bn ($8m). Renewable methanol (RM) is a synthetic liquid fuel used as gasoline blends to meet the renewable energy directives.
The construction of the George Olah renewable methanol plant was started in October 2009 and commissioning took place in late 2011. The plant was officially opened in April 2012.
It is named in the honour of the Nobel laureate in chemistry George Olah. The plant is owned by Carbon Recycling International (CRI). It is jointly operated by HS Orka and CRI.
The renewable facility is expected to produce about five million litres of RM per annum, which is sufficient to meet about 2.5% of the total gasoline market in Iceland. The new facility is expected to reclaim about 4,500t/y of CO2 from the Earth's atmosphere.
The current EU/EEA fuel quality regulations in Iceland allow mixing of up to three percent methanol with gasoline fuel in automotive vehicles for transportation. The country is expected to allow about ten percent fuel blends from renewable sources by 2020.
Developing the Icelandic renewable methanol plant
The CO2 to methanol production process is based on proprietary emission to liquid (ETL) technology developed by CRI. The ETL technology includes integrated electrolytic cracker and catalytic synthesis system to convert renewable energy into liquid fuel on a small scale. The chemical process requires very little physical space.
Iceland is well suited for RM production due to the abundant resource of geothermal power, which accounts for about 25% of the electricity generation in the country. When compared to standard fuel, CRI's RM is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 75%.
CRI has been operating a pilot facility for testing the ETL technology in Iceland since August 2007. It converts CO2 to liquid fuels and has a capacity of 50,000 litres a year. George Olah facility is the first commercial plant based on the ETL technology. It will provide operational experience and improve the plant economics to pave the way for building larger plants.
The facility will also validate the logistics and distribution of the methanol product across the EU and Iceland. The standard commercial scale facilities will have a capacity of 50 million litres a year and are planned to be built across the globe.
Conventional biodiesel and ethanol fuels are produced from agricultural resources and fossil fuels. Renewable methanol does not lead to high costs as it is independent of fossil fuel-based production.
The RM has high levels of octane and blending, which enable emission of lesser hydrocarbons and toxic compounds. It is less flammable, biodegradable and is expected to become an alternative to the renewable fuels. It is expected to become a sustainable source across Europe.
The RM is also reproducible in similar geothermal production sites worldwide. The energy can also be sourced from renewable resources such as wind, geothermal energy, solar and hydro power.
ETL prcoess at George Olah CO2 to RM plant
In February 2011, Bayer MaterialScience started a new pilot plant at Chempark Leverkusen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
The patented ETL process uses CO2 and hydrogen as feedstock and converts them into renewable methanol, with oxygen as the only byproduct.
The CO2 is captured from the Svartsengi geothermal power station. It also supplies power for the electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen. The H2 and CO2 are reacted, to produce methanol. The electrochemical process occurs at low temperatures and low pressure.
The renewable methanol production facility requires about five megawatts of power generation capacity equivalent per annum. The ETL technology requires a modular construction and can be implemented at the site in phases.
The technology has been proven successful in storage of the energy, CO2 reduction and fuel transportation.
Contractors involved with Iceland's project
The George Olah renewable methanol plant was designed by Mannvit Engineering. The company was also responsible for the project management services. HS Orka is the primary feedstock supplier for the plant.
The municipality of Grindavik and Jacobs Engineering collaborated for the project. CRI has also partnered with Innovation Center Iceland for the development of technology and availing grants.
Iceland Oil is responsible for sales of the renewable methanol under a long-term contract with CRI.