Spin-off INERATEC stands for container-sized reactors that convert waste gases into synthetic fuel. Air and sea transport in particular could benefit from the green fuel.
The average temperature on Earth is rising by almost 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, and the trend is upward. This is primarily due to the massive production of carbon dioxide. Flaring alone, the burning of exhaust gases, releases more than 400 million metric tons of CO2 every year. The founders of INERATEC GmbH have set themselves the goal of ensuring that in the future, associated and excess gases produced in small quantities at landfills or in industry are not simply incinerated.
They plan, produce and market chemical plants that convert previously unused gases, such as carbon dioxide, into synthetic fuels or chemical value products, such as waxes, with the addition of electricity and hydrogen. What makes this so special is that INERATEC was able to transfer processes that normally take place in expensive, large-scale plants into miniature format.
The result is more cost-effective compact systems that can fit, fully assembled, in a conventional shipping container. Designed according to the modular principle, they can be expanded as required and set up wherever residual gases occur and there is a need for them.
INERATEC, a spin-off of KIT with it origins at the Institute for Micro Process Engineering (IMVT), was founded in 2016 by Dr. Tim Böltken, Philipp Engelkamp, Dr. Paolo Piermartini, and Prof. Dr. Peter Pfeifer. A lot has happened since then: 25 employees, 20 customers and 9 pilot plants across Europe were already in place by the end of 2018. "Our personal highlight last year was winning the German Founder's Prize, which we were able to bring to Karlsruhe in the start-up category," says Böltken. "We are encouraged by the positive feedback to our idea and the encouragement we have received from the industry, which shows that we are on the right track."
At the core of the plants are reactors in which well-known chemical processes such as synthesis gas generation, Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, methanol synthesis and methanation take place, only in a compact format. "This flexibility allow a wide range of applications. In addition to solutions for the gasto-liquid sector, our portfolio also includes power-to-liquid or power-to-gas plants," explains Böltken, a chemical engineer.
In many cases, the INERATEC team deals with socially relevant problems that have existed for many years but for which there have been no decentralized solutions until now. For example, solar and wind power plant operators have to contend with changing amounts of electricity due to their dependence on wind and weather. During storms, for example, wind turbines must be partially taken off the grid to avoid overloading the power grids. Cost-effective storage or recycling has not been possible until now. INERATEC's plants are so compact that they can be placed in the middle of solar or wind farms in the future.
Renewable electricity is then converted into synthetic fuel by adding carbon dioxide, which can be stored for any length of time. What's more, the green fuel produced can be fed directly into existing infrastructures. It is compatible with common engines as well as power plants and also burns better than fossil fuels.
While a trend reversal toward electromobility is emerging in the automotive sector, many means of transportation and machines will still need to be filled with liquid fuel in the future. Böltken is optimistic about the future: "We see huge potential, especially in cooperation with the naval and aviation industries, and firmly believe that we can make an important contribution to the energy transition. Howver, you cannot do that with a few liters of fuel. Our goal by 2021 is to have sold 50 systems and move from small-scale production to mass production."
"My vision is to one day fuel an airplane with regenerative, synthetic fuel."
Images: Aun Photographer / Shutterstock, bearbeitet von DER PUNKT · KIT / PPQ · Anne Behrendt / KIT