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   Infocentre

Published: 14 December 2015  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Bioeconomy
EnergyRenewable energy sources
EnvironmentClean technology and recycling
Industrial researchMaterials & products
Pure sciencesChemistry
Research policyHorizon 2020
Success storiesIndustrial research
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Belgium  |  Germany  |  Iceland  |  Italy  |  Slovenia  |  Spain  |  United Kingdom
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A spirited approach to methanol production

The carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuel power stations and many other types of plant could be used to generate methanol, say EU-funded researchers. They are developing a cost-effective method to turn this overabundant pollutant into a welcome resource. This process will draw on surplus energy produced by renewables at peak times.

Photo of an Industrial complex
© Firnis - fotolia.com

Methanol is in great demand. It is a type of alcohol used to produce plastics and paints, to name but a few examples, and it is also a clean-burning fuel. The partners in the MefCO2 project are devising a method to derive it viably from the carbon dioxide emitted by power generation.

Hydrogen is needed to sustain this process, and the partners plan to produce it by electrolysis. Splitting water molecules in this way requires a lot of energy, which limits the technique’s suitability for many applications, but MefCO2 has found an elegant solution. The team intends to run the hydrogen generation process using excess energy that might otherwise be lost.

Oversupply of electricity is often linked to the generation capacity from renewables, which can be unpredictable — on a particularly blustery day, a wind farm could produce far more electricity than expected, for instance. The excess can destabilise the system, and power companies may have to pay to release it to the grid.

The MefCO2 method would enable them to store this energy in the form of methanol instead. It could thus help to solve several problems at once, potentially creating an excellent business case for this innovative approach to carbon capture and usage. Work in the project focuses on the example of a coal-fired power plant, but the techniques the partners are developing could be applied in many other industrial settings.

Project details

  • Project acronym:MefCO2
  • Participants:Spain (Coordinator), Slovenia, Germany, UK, Iceland, Italy, Belgium
  • Project Reference N° 637016
  • Total cost: €11 041 537
  • EU contribution: €8 622 292
  • Duration:December 2014 - December 2018

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Countries
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  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Botswana
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Finland
  France
  Gambia
  Georgia
  Germany
  Ghana
  Greece