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From plant to pump: Developing carbon-neutral fuel at scale

In the race toward decarbonization, a synthetic fuel called e-methanol soon may have its moment. Clariant's MegaMax® catalyst to help produce the fuel at mega plant in Denmark.

By Hydrogen Council

In the race toward decarbonization, a synthetic fuel called e-methanol soon may have its moment. Renewably produced through electrochemical processes, this lower-carbon alternative to maritime bunker fuels and other diesel blends has reduced lifecycle emissions and lower sulfur content compared to conventional hydrocarbons. Accordingly, e-methanol is drawing interest from carbon-intensive industries such as shipping, logistics, and manufacturing.

In anticipation of that market demand, one of the world’s largest e-methanol projects will soon make use of Clariant’s methanol synthesis catalyst. Called MegaMax®, the next-generation methanol synthesis catalyst is adept at combining hydrogen and captured CO2 into green methanol. In partnership with European Energy A/S, a leader in renewable solutions, the Denmark-based facility is expected to produce some 32,000 tons of e-methanol this year. That’s enough to power a container ship run by a methanol dual-fuel engine for approximately one year.

Customer deals have already been inked. Toy manufacturer Lego anticipates replacing fossil-based materials in plastic production, while Danish pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk aims to use e-methanol to build greener medical devices, such as insulin pens. Shipping giant Maersk, meanwhile, wants to use the alternative fuel to power its first-ever carbon-neutral fleet.

To understand why, just look at the technology itself. It’s expected to be a game-changer.  

@ Clariant – MegaMax®, the next-generation methanol synthesis catalyst is adept at combining hydrogen and captured CO2 into green methanol.

Carbon Feedstocks Help Reduce Lifecycle Footprints

Considered a breakthrough in performance, MegaMax® can generate e-methanol by reacting hydrogen against CO2 from a variety of different feedstocks, including natural gas, coal, biomass and municipal waste. But the use of CO2 from biogenic emissions and direct air capture, which reduces the lifecycle carbon footprint for e-methanol customers, is drawing the most attention.

CO2 is essentially employed as a renewable source, which addresses the dual challenge of decarbonization and questions about producing a versatile fuel. Efficiencies are gained by adding more active sites in the catalyst, where chemical reactions occur, resulting in greater e-methanol yields with higher stability for the technology that creates it. This ensures a longer lifespan for MegaMax® and higher performance for its product.  

Stability and lower conversion efficiencies have been common challenges for e-methanol. Another main barrier to its broader adoption, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), has been “its higher cost compared to fossil fuel-based alternatives”.

Clariant recognized these challenges early on as it worked with European Energy to produce carbon-neutral fuel at scale for industrial commercialization.

Applications in Shipping, Manufacturing & More

By tackling these issues head on, MegaMax® is poised to make e-methanol production from CO2 and hydrogen a truly viable, sustainable process. The goal is to afford customers the ability to increase production and reduce energy costs, all while decarbonizing their lines of production and transportation. Maersk, for instance, has promised to only order new ships that use carbon-neutral fuel. Its first large vessel, the Ane Maersk, is fueled by e-methanol; it arrived in Dubai in May.

“This is an important milestone for Maersk in our journey to decarbonize ocean transportation,” said Christopher Cook, Managing Director, Maersk UAE, Oman and Qatar, in the press release. “Ane Maersk represents our ambitions toward sustainability and innovation.”

Clariant has more than a half-century’s experience developing highly active, selective catalysts for methanol production. It’s now poised to become a defining leader in sustainable chemical processes. By optimizing the technology, Clariant is significantly reducing CO2 footprints and contributing to the shared goal of a more environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient industry. And as nations and companies eye renewable energy and net-zero emissions targets, MegaMax® is set to become a critical component of their strategies.

The facility – located in Kasso, Denmark – is expected to start operations in last quarter of 2024, with a second plant opening in the first quarter of the following year.    

The effects, however, encompass far more than the facility’s European footprint. Global industrial leaders like Maersk, Lego and Novo Nordisk recognize that. Accordingly, Clariant is positioning itself as a steward for a more carbon-conscious future. As a member company of the Hydrogen Council, Clariant also seeks to increase broader awareness and public support for sustainable e-methanol solutions and their many benefits, particularly as the regulatory landscape continues to evolve.

Learn more about Clariant’s continued efforts to meet customer needs and decarbonization goals at scale.

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