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Carbon Dioxide to Dimethyl Ether

Skyre

Electricity From an Energy-Dense Carbon-Neutral Energy Carrier

Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,200,000
Location: 
East Hartford, CT
Project Term: 
06/09/2017 to 09/30/2018
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Most liquid fuels used in transportation today are derived from petroleum and burned in internal combustion engines. These fuels are attractive because of their high energy density and current economics, but they remain partially reliant on imported petroleum and are highly carbon intensive. Domestically produced carbon-neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs), such as dimethyl ether (DME) that is a potential drop-in replacement for diesel engines, can address both of these challenges. Typical fuel production processes require huge capital investments and supporting infrastructure, including base-load power to run continuously. Technology enabling the small- and medium-scale synthesis of liquid fuels can move the production of the fuels closer to the consumer, and - if renewable sources are used - the fuels can be produced in a carbon neutral manner. However, significant technical challenges remain in either changing these processes for smaller scale use or developing alternative electrochemical processes for fuel development. New methods would also have to employ variable rates of production to match the intermittent generation of renewable sources. Improvements in these areas could dramatically reduce the energy and carbon intensity of liquid fuel production. By taking better advantage of intermittent renewable resources in low-population areas and transporting that energy as a liquid fuel to urban centers, we can more fully utilize domestically available resources.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Skyre will develop a system to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from industrial or chemical processes, electrochemically convert it into methanol, and further transform the methanol into dimethyl ether (DME). DME can be stored and transported using existing infrastructure and can be converted into electricity to provide power for transportation and distributed energy generation. To convert CO2 to methanol, new catalysts that improve efficiency and lower costs will be developed that are highly selective and durable, building on the team's prior work with transition-metal-supported catalysts. The CO2 reduction technology is designed to be modular and scalable. The system does not require a continuous supply of power and can, therefore, use intermittent renewable energy sources. These technologies offer a path to better utilize domestic resources, providing long-term energy storage from wind and solar, and long-distance energy delivery from remote locations.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, developments from REFUEL projects will enable energy generated from domestic, renewable resources to increase fuel diversity in the transportation sector in a cost-effective and efficient way.
Security: 
The U.S. transportation sector is heavily dependent on petroleum for its energy. Increasing the diversity of energy-dense liquid fuels would bolster energy security and help reduce energy imports.
Environment: 
Liquid fuels created using energy from renewable resources are carbon-neutral, helping reduce transportation sector emissions.
Economy: 
Fuel diversity reduces exposure to price volatility. By storing energy in hydrogen-rich liquid fuels instead of pure hydrogen in liquid or gaseous form, transportation costs can be greatly reduced, helping make CNLFs cost-competitive with traditional fuels.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Grigorii Soloveichik
Project Contact: 
Dr. Trent M. Molter
Partners
Northeastern University
Advent Technologies, Inc.
Release Date: 
12/15/2016