A Power-to-Liquids (PtL) demonstration rig – the first of its kind in the world – has been officially inaugurated by Dresden-based sunfire GmbH.

The rig was inaugurated in the presence of Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka, Bilfinger Board Member Pieter Koolen, and a number of other high-ranking representatives from the worlds of politics, industry and research.

The rig uses sunfire’s PtL technology to transform water and CO2 to high-purity synthetic fuels (petrol, diesel, kerosene) with the aid of renewable electricity.

PtL fuels – also known as ‘e-fuels’ – can be used in its pure form or as an admixture in combination with conventional fuels, and are recognised as an environmentally friendly, resource-saving alternative which contributes to the fulfilment of greenhouse gas quotas.

Preparations for the commissioning of the PtL rig are currently in fully swing at sunfire’s Gasanstaltstraße premises.

PtL plant close-up

Source: sunfire GmbH


Technical feasibility

The PtL technology is built around the solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOECs) developed by the cleantech firm as part of the eponymous BMBF research project SUNFIRE.

Step one of the PtL process sees the SOECs used to convert electrical energy to chemical energy. Hydrogen is generated using steam rather than liquid water.

Step two – the reverse water-gas shift reaction – involves the use of the hydrogen (H2) yielded by the steam electrolysis step to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) to carbon monoxide (CO) for the third and final step: Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis. This step sees the carbon monoxide and additional hydrogen (in the form of renewable synthesis gas) converted to petrol, diesel, kerosene and other base products for the chemicals industry.

sunfire CTO Christian von Olshausen, said in a statement, “This rig enables us to prove technical feasibility on an industrial scale. It is now a matter of regulatory factors falling into place in a way which gives investors a sufficient level of planning reliability.”

“Once that has occurred it will be possible to commence the step-by-step substitution of fossil fuels. If we want to achieve fuel autonomy in the long-term, we need to get started today.”