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Experimental Investigation on CO2 Methanation Process for Solar Energy Storage Compared to CO2-Based Methanol Synthesis


The utilization of the captured CO2 as a carbon source for the production of energy storage media offers a technological solution for overcoming crucial issues in current energy systems. Solar energy production generally does not match with energy demand because of its intermittent and non-programmable nature, entailing the adoption of storage technologies. Hydrogen constitutes a chemical storage for renewable electricity if it is produced by water electrolysis and is also the key reactant for CO2 methanation (Sabatier reaction). The utilization of CO2 as a feedstock for producing methane contributes to alleviate global climate changes and sequestration related problems. The produced methane is a carbon neutral gas that fits into existing infrastructure and allows issues related to the aforementioned intermittency and non-programmability of solar energy to be overcome. In this paper, an experimental apparatus, composed of an electrolyzer and a tubular fixed bed reactor, is built and used to produce methane via Sabatier reaction. The objective of the experimental campaign is the evaluation of the process performance and a comparison with other CO2 valorization paths such as methanol production. The investigated pressure range was 2–20 bar, obtaining a methane volume fraction in outlet gaseous mixture of 64.75% at 8 bar and 97.24% at 20 bar, with conversion efficiencies of, respectively, 84.64% and 99.06%. The methanol and methane processes were compared on the basis of an energy parameter defined as the spent energy/stored energy. It is higher for the methanol process (0.45), with respect to the methane production process (0.41–0.43), which has a higher energy storage capability.

Funding source: The authors would like to acknowledge the Italian Ministry of Scientific Research and University for financially supporting the BIT3G project and Novamont for its efforts in coordinating the consortium.
Countries: Italy ; Netherlands

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