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Haldor Topsoe begins commissioning of eSMR Methanol demo plant in Foulum

In Denmark, Haldor Topsoe A/S, a global leader in high-performance catalysts and proprietary technologies for the chemical and refining industries has announced that will begin commissioning the eSMR Methanol demo plant in Foulum to validate its electrified technology for cost-competitive production of methanol from biogas as well as other products. The project is supported by the Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program (EUDP) and developed together with Aarhus University.

Haldor Topsoe A/S will begin commissioning its eSMR Methanol demonstration plant in Foulum, Denmark to validate its electrified technology for cost-competitive production of methanol from biogas as well as other sustainable products. The project is supported by the Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program (EUDP) and developed together with Aarhus University (photo courtesy Haldor Topsoe).

The global annual production of methanol is around 110 million tonnes. Currently derived almost entirely from fossil sources such as methane, close to 1.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted per produced tonne of methanol.

Thus the emission reduction potential – and positive societal impact – is enormous, assuming that all methanol is produced by means of a carbon-neutral process and sustainable feedstock.

eSMR Methanol demo project

In 2019, Haldor Topsoe announced the eSMR Methanol project to build a demonstration plant to validate its new electrified steam methane reforming (eSMR) technology.

Together with consortium partners Aarhus University, Sintex A/S, Blue World Technology ApS, Technical University of Denmark, Energinet A/S, Aalborg University, and PlanEnergi, and with support from the Danish Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program (EUDP), the plant has now been completed at AU Foulum.

Haldor Topsoe will now begin the commissioning of the demo plant which is scheduled to be fully operational by the beginning of 2022.

Ideal R&D platform

AU Foulum is part of Aarhus University and is home to most of the university’s research in food and agriculture. AU Foulum has a combined area of approximately 590 ha and buildings covering an area of around 120 000 m2, including offices, laboratories, animal houses, machine storage, and a biogas plant.

We are very happy about the accomplishments in the joint project so far. The new electrified steam methane reforming technology is central in a future based on renewable energy and circular bioeconomy and the eSMR demo plant fits perfectly into our energy research facility in Foulum. We see many interesting perspectives in this new technology, and we look forward to unlocking the potential of further development and integration of the technology in the energy system of the future, said Thomas Lundgaard, Project Manager at Aarhus University, Dept. of Biological and Chemical Engineering.

The climate benefits from using sustainable methanol are not limited to one single purpose. Sustainable methanol can be used for marine fuel, blend in gasoline, and for the chemical industry, where methanol is mainly used today.

Aarhus University’s biogas research plant in Foulum. Built by Xergi in 2007, the Foulum plant is one of the world’s largest of its kind and the University has its own livestock and crop research and production in the surroundings. Research at the full-scale biogas plant is focused on advanced technologies for improving the biogas production including optimization of the biogas potential and improvement of methods such as pre-treatment, high technology separation of nutrients, thermal conversion of the residual fibres after digestion, high solid digester technology, and upgrading of biogas to biomethane.

While the main focus of the 10 kg methanol per hour demonstration plant is validating Haldor Topsoe’s eSMR technology for methanol, the technology opens for other sustainable products like green hydrogen, green ammonia, and electro-fuels (eFuels).

The groundbreaking technology produces synthesis gas (syngas), an essential building block in the production of polymers (plastics) and chemicals. The eSMR technology is CO2-neutral when based on biogas as feedstock, utilizing approximately half the CO2 contained in biogas and green electricity for heating.

Fighting climate change demands clean fuels for all sectors. With this initiative, we will demonstrate that we are able to transform the classical production process into a fully carbon-neutral scheme. Specifically, we will demonstrate that sustainable methanol can be produced from biogas at a very competitive cost compared to other green methanol produced from non-fossil fuels, said Kim Grøn Knudsen, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at Haldor Topsoe.

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