CO2 recycling into Valuable Hydrocarbon Products.

The sharp increase witnessed in atmospheric CO2 concentration is currently acknowledged as the single most important environmental problem facing mankind. Thankfully, this focused attention had the merit of speeding up applied research on the subject, which ultimately led to the discovery of multiple new alternatives for CO2, amongst which is CO2 recycling. Until now most uses foreseen for captured CO2 were deemed financially unattractive due to the possibility of free‐of‐charge emission and to a low energetic cost from fossil fuel sources. Hence, CO2 uses are usually scarce and the subsequent step to capture is usually geological storage. Nevertheless with the current emission restrictions and high fuel prices, CO2 recycling, namely through electrochemical reactions, is becoming a much wanted reality. Omnidea, though currently not engaged in the capture process, has been working on this theme since 2005 and is pursuing the alternative path of CO2 re‐conversion to a hydrocarbon form.

This system, currently under development in close cooperation with ESA and named Energon, acts as a substitute to batteries, storing large amounts of energy under a hydrocarbon form (usually a mix of methane, ethane and/or ethylene). After acquiring a fundamental knowledge of this process and achieving breakthrough results in the artificial manufacturing of long chain hydrocarbons from CO2, Omnidea’s R&D efforts are now directed to the multiple challenges involved in successful system integration.


       •Energy storage competitive with batteries;
       •Fuel cell market.

CO2 - loop for Energy storage and conversion to Organic chemistry Processes through advanced catalytic Systems.


CEOPS is a 3 years European project  funded under the NMP (Nanosciences, nenotechnoogies, materials and new production technologies), theme of the European Union 7th Framework Program. The project, just started on February 1st, 2013  and is devoted to the development of a sustainable approach for the production of methanol, which is a precursor of fine chemicals products from CO2 via an easy transportable vector, methane. This approach will enable the decentralization of methanol production which will favour the emergence of distributed, small and flexible production units of fine chemicals. This vision paves the way for several novel and sustainable production schemes.


CEOPS’s Concept


  • One sub-system A: Upstream, CO2 to methane conversion will be realized with advanced catalysts to promote the efficiency of CO2 à CH4 electro-catalytic process at the point of CO2 emission (cement works). Methane will act as an easy storable and transportable carbon vector (from intermittent sources).
  • A second sub-system B: Downstream, the direct conversion of methane to methanol will be done at the point of fine chemicals production with advanced catalysts to promote the efficiency of the direct pathway instead of using the current pathway consisting of a steam reforming of CH4 which represents 60-70% of cost production of current methanol, followed by the CO hydrogenation reaction.



 Objectives of the project


CEOPS will develop and evaluate efficient advanced catalytic materials (Objective 1) for application in three promising electro-catalytic processes (Objective 2) in order to radically increase their conversion rates and selectivity overtime:


  • DBD (Dielectric Barrier Discharge) plasma catalysis,
  • Photo-activated catalysis,
  • Electro-catalytic reduction.


The performances of the studied catalyst and process schemes will be benchmarked.


The most efficient and durable scheme for both pathways will be selected on the basis of conversion rate, selectivity and energy (electricity) consumption. A prototype of sub systems A and B will be realised at a scale of m3.h-1 (Objective 3).


This prototype will integrate the selected schemes and will be validated in order to demonstrate the proof of concept and to generate the required data for the techno-economic assessment (Objective 4). The scalability of both schemes will be also studied with the support of the industrial partners.


Project’s Consortium


The project is led by CEA-Institute of new energy and nanomaterials. CTG-Italcementi, GDF-Suez Energy Romaniaand Chemie-Cluster Bayern will bring respectively their expertise in CO2 emissions, CH4 injection and transportation and on methanol use for the fine chemical industry. They also contribute to the techno-economic and environmental assessments. Instituto Superior Técnico, Fundacio Institut De Recerca De L'energia De Catalunya, OMNIDEA will develop advanced catalysts and also contribute to electrochemical process development. University of Pierre & Marie Curie, CEA-Institute of new energy and nanomaterials, Fundacio Institut De Recerca De L'energia De Catalunya, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade Nova de Lisboa will develop electro-catalytic processes. CEA assisted by the consortium will implement the prototype. European Materials Research Society and Chemie-Cluster Bayern will ensure the dissemination of the CEOPS concept and results. 


CEOPS’s Impact


The impact of the project will go beyond the methanol market for fine chemistry. Indeed, with the current development of renewable Energy at the European level, the electricity storage is becoming a major issue for the next decade. This CO2 conversion into CH4 will ease the storage of renewable energy generated during low production peaks. During high electricity peak consumption, instead to produce electricity from fossil fuels, it should be produced from this “renewable” CH4. This complementary approach will contribute to boost renewable sources and to smooth high peak costs. Furthermore CO2 could be reduced during low electrical consumption and low cost period through the sub-system A.


Find out more about the scientific content of the project under: