The extensive use of fossil hydrocarbons and their derived products in the energy, transport and petrochemical sectors is a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and it ties our societies to a dependency on dwindling reserves. In this context, synthetic fuels like methanol and higher olefins are being promoted as alternative energy carriers and raw materials that could be easily introduced in the existing transportation, storage and distribution system without incurring excessive costs. Moreover, the combination with renewable energy sources (RES) would ensure the sustainability of the synthesis process and enables new complementarities.
Which technologies would be best suited? What are the required scientific breakthroughs? The workshop “Sustainable Fuels from Renewable Energies”, held at IASS on November 19th-20th, provided an opportunity for scientists and industrialists to exchange ideas and assess possible technological pathways to renewable fuels.
Under the chairmanship of Nobel Laureate and IASS Scientific Director Prof. Carlo Rubbia, the participants addressed topics pertaining to the different methods for synthesising these fuels, with a specific focus on the integration of renewable energy (wind, solar, etc.) with current and emerging technologies.
A key theme of the discussions was the storing of intermittent renewable electricity in synthetic chemicals: these concepts, known as power-to-gas and power-to-liquids, are central to some fossils-free, low emissions energy scenarios such as the one recently presented by the German Federal Environment Agency. This approach shares similarities with the IASS research project on the scientific, technical and economic aspects of the production of renewable methanol from recycled CO2. Finally, representatives from private companies active in this sector provided details on the technologies that are currently commercialised as well as on future perspectives.
At the end of the discussions, the participants agreed that many of these technologies are already well established, and called for increased advocacy efforts aimed at convincing policy-makers to introduce the necessary regulatory frameworks.
Photo credits: Jens Jeske