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30/01/15 The fourth ARCHER Newsletter was released on 30 January 2015. Read online here

21/01/15 The second ARCHER EUROCOURSE, hosted by NRG, was held in Petten from 19-20 January 2015. Click here for more info

26/11/14 The third ARCHER Newsletter was released on 26 November 2014. Read online here

28/10/14 The ARCHER final meeting was held on 21-22 Jan 2015 at NRG in Petten (NL).

27/10/14 The High Temperature Reactor (HTR) Conference was held from 27-31 October 2014 in Weihai, Shandong Province, China. Click here for more info

29/03/14 The second Newsletter was released on 28 March 2014. Read online here

Supported by

European Commission

Carbon Capture and Utilisation: Another Potential Mission for HTR?

by Michael A. Fütterer, JRC

Widely considered as an unwanted greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide is turned into a valuable commodity through the Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) process. CO2 captured from industrial sites such as power plants, cement plants or refineries can be recycled as feedstock for producing synthetic gaseous and liquid fuels and chemicals, such as polymers or construction materials [1; 2].

A particularly attractive product could be liquid hydrocarbon fuel, e.g. methanol or the diesel substitute DME for use in aviation or maritime transport, and large and growing markets that are not easily electrified. CCU would then reduce the need for underground storage of CO2 (Carbon Capture and Storage - CCS) because every carbon atom is used at least twice for energy conversion before being emitted into the atmosphere, hence reducing the overall emission.

By using excess energy, CCU could support load following in power generation, which becomes increasingly important to accommodate growing fractions of variable renewable electricity in the energy mix.

However, energy loss is common to all energy conversion processes, which is also the case with CCU. The amount of primary energy for the production of synfuel is higher than what the synfuel produces later. This energy is required to be in the form of large amounts of hydrogen produced by using heat, electricity and water, which has to be desalinated when necessary, purified and demineralised.

To create an overall CO2 benefit, this hydrogen must be delivered by a low-carbon energy source, e.g. renewables or nuclear. This is where High Temperature Reactor (HTR) technology can kick in: its cogeneration capability is uniquely suited for the two most promising technologies in hydrogen production, namely high temperature electrolysis and thermo-chemical processes.

CO2-to-liquid fuel technologies have to compete with natural gas and established gas-to-liquid (GTL) processes, but they have potential for improvement in efficiency and capital cost. The balance improves if the cost for alternatives, CO2 storage, CO2 tax and savings in infrastructure development are factored in, and if the product can be sold at a competitive price. The financial viability is sensitive to the market supply and demand, and to the resulting price of competing fossil oil and natural gas. It critically depends on the availability of a competitive primary energy source in the form of heat and/or electricity.

HTRs, with their cogeneration capability for electricity and process heat, are perfectly suited to power such industrial processes, thus potentially achieving large emission savings. The technical and economic viability of using HTRs in combination with CCU deserves to be evaluated more closely.

Learn more?

[1] P. Styring, D. Jansen, H. de Coninck, H. Reith, K. Armstrong, Carbon Capture and Utilisation in the green economy, Using CO2 to manufacture fuel, chemicals and materials, The Centre for Low Carbon Futures 2011, July 2011.

[2] GCCSI Parkinson Brinckerhoff, Accelerating the uptake of CCS: industrial use of captured carbon dioxide, March 2011.