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Forschungszentrum Jülich - Annual Report 2012

What are the steps in your method for producing fuels from green electricity, CO2, and water? The first and most important step is high-temperature steam electrolysis. We are developing a facility for this purpose that splits steam into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity from renewable sources. Compared to the splitting of liquid water, this procedure saves a lot of energy. In the second step, carbon dioxide (CO2) is reduced to carbon monoxide (CO) with hydrogen. In a third step, we then synthesize liquid hydro- carbons – the fuels – from CO and additional hydrogen. Heat is released in this process, which we use to produce hydrogen again for the first step. The efficiency of the entire process is about 50% for the current state of the art, which means that only half of the elec- tric energy would be converted into fuels. We want to increase this efficiency to up to 70%, first and foremost by improving the steam electrolysis step. How is Forschungszentrum Jülich involved? Jülich is refining the electrolysis cell based on high-temperature fuel cells in cooperation with other partners. Forschungszentrum Jülich has proven expertise in this field. The main aim is to test the individual layers that make up the cell. Although the project was only launched in 2012, what we have already achieved with the support of Forschungszentrum Jülich is impressive: for example, we have significantly reduced the degradation of the cells, that’s the decline in performance when cells are operated. Producing petrol from the greenhouse gas CO2 and renewable energy – that sounds fantastic. But wouldn’t it make more sense to use the electricity directly to drive electric cars? After all, energy is lost in each additional conversion step. We don’t want to compete with electric drives, because it’s certainly much better to use electric energy directly. But it looks like it will hardly be possible to operate aircraft, ships, or large trucks on energy from batteries. Liquid fuels will continue to provide advantages for these applications due to their high energy densities. What it comes down to is that our method, which will not be launched on the market on the refinery scale before 2020, allows us to store electricity in the form of fuels. In a few years’ time, electricity storage will become increasingly necessary because power supply will fluctuate considerably due to the transformation of the energy sector. Sunfire GmbH, based in Dresden, is developing a procedure using renewable energies to efficiently produce petrol, diesel, or kerosene from carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). In doing so, the company is banking on know-how from Jülich – in a collaborative project fund- ed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. An interview with Christian von Olshausen, Chief Technical Officer at Sunfire. Fuels from Green Electricity, Carbon Dioxide, and Water Annual Report 2012 | Forschungszentrum Jülich 23 Christian von Olshausen, CTO at Sunfire GmbH, outlines the company’s cooperation with Forschungszentrum Jülich. Sunfire