CO2EXIDE – Impact

The R&D project CO2EXIDE is targeting the substitution of fossil-based production routes of the bulk chemical ethylene oxide via electrochemical synthesis from water and CO2 as carbon source driven by renewable electricity.

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Recycling of CO2

Development of cutting-edge, environmentally friendly, and energy-efficient technologies such as the electrocatalytic production addressed in CO2EXIDE could reduce the release of anthropological greenhouse gases responsible for global warming, by reducing the use of fossil resources. Ethylene oxide primarily produced from the greenhouse gas CO2 can escalate this positive impact. CO2 utilisation from e.g. biobased fermentation processes in biogas plants of breweries or CO2 from combustion or industrial processes offers broad application opportunities in Europe and the rest of the world.

Power-to-EthyleneOxide – Interlinkage of the electricity and chemicals sector

Renewable power sources that harness solar and wind energy have significant potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions but are accompanied by several problems due to their fluctuating and intermittent nature. According to the IEA (International Energy Agency), global electricity generation is currently covered by 22.8% of renewable power sources, with water power being the most important (16.6%). Variable or fluctuating renewable power sources such as wind and photovoltaics only account for 3.1% and 0.9%, respectively. However, the installed capacity of wind power and photovoltaics has grown very rapidly over the past decade. Currently, 370 GW of wind power and 177 GW of photovoltaics are installed globally. This shows the expected future capacity of fluctuating renewable power sources for selected countries and the rest of the world.[1]

[1] IEA (2013) World Energy Outlook 2013 – Renewable Energy Outlook. http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/media/weowebsite/2013/WEO2013_Ch06_Renewables.pdf, accessed at 13.08.2015

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Prognosis of future installed power of fluctuating renewable power sources
(Source: data based on IEA (2013) World Energy Outlook)

This strong growth of fluctuating renewable power sources (photovoltaics and wind power) will also lead to an increased demand for energy balancing and storage options. Whereas technologies such as flywheels or batteries are better suited for short-term energy storage, renewable chemicals like ethylene oxide with significant demand volumes produced from excess electricity via electrosynthesis can provide a promising long term electricity storage solution and interlinkage for the electricity and chemicals production sector in Europe.

Renewable large volume bulk chemicals

The use of CO2 as singular carbon source for the parallel production of ethylene and hydrogen peroxide opens the direct access to high volume bulk chemical ethylene oxide. With the various applications of ethylene oxide, electrosynthesis would enable an increasing percentage of renewables in the chemical sector und derived consumer products. The bulk chemical ethylene oxide can fulfill a large part of the chemical requirements in Europe in many different applications: e.g. as basis for polyethylene glycol, ethanol, 1,3-propane diol, acetaldehyde, etc. – In the R&D project CO2EXIDE made from renewable sources. The potential of CO2-based electrosynthesis of ethylene oxide can be determined by the following criteria:

  • potential sales quantities of “green” / “renewable” ethylene oxide from decentralized electrochemical production,
  • potential acquisition of surplus/renewable electricity and
  • available quantities of CO2 from biobased or industrial processes. Due to the flexibility of the processes, a wide range of chemicals can be produced. A successful CO2EXIDE project has the potential to provide a clean, sustainable and flexible way to transform renewable electricity into chemicals for various applications while helping to strengthen our independence from fossil resources.
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