Demand-driven production of liquid fuels from regenerative energy sources is a major element of the energy turnaround. Production of synthetic fuels from solar energy and carbon dioxide extracted from air is the objective of the SOLETAIR project started now by INERATEC, a spinoff of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in cooperation with Finnish partners. Together, the partners plan to take into operation the first chemical pilot plant worldwide. It is so compact that it fits into a ship container and produces gasoline, diesel, and kerosene from regenerative hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
The plant consists of three components. The direct air capture unit developed by the Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) extracts carbon dioxide from air. An electrolysis unit developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) produces the required hydrogen by means of solar power. A microstructured, chemical reactor is the key component of the plant and converts the hydrogen produced from solar power together with carbon dioxide into liquid fuels. This reactor was developed by KIT. The compact plant was developed to maturity and is now being commercialized by INERATEC.
“Projects, such as SOLETAIR, are essential for the success of the energy turnaround,” Professor Thomas Hirth, Vice President for Innovation and International Affairs of KIT, says. “Commissioning of this pilot plant is an example of successful transfer of KIT’s research innovations to industry.” INERATEC GmbH is a spinoff of KIT and develops, constructs, and sells compact chemical plants for various gas-to-liquid and power-to-liquid applications. The spinoff is supported under the EXIST research transfer program of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.