The solar reforming of biogas or natural gas – with methane (CH4) as the main component – offers the possibility of producing synthesis gas in a climate-friendly way using water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2), while chemically storing fluctuating solar energy. The synthesis gas consists of hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO) and can be converted into synthetic crude oil in a Fischer-Tropsch unit, which in turn can be processed into liquid fuels such as kerosene in industrially established processes. These solar, synthetic fuels are an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional, fossil-based fuels and can make an important contribution to reducing climate-impacting emissions, particularly in aviation and heavy goods traffic.
The aim of the SolarFuels project is to demonstrate the entire solar based technology chain from feedstock to synthetic crude oil in an optimised, integrated system on an industrially relevant scale. Three key components for the use of high-temperature solar heat will be decisively further developed and qualified for use under practical conditions in the overall system:
In addition, the development of an industry-compatible control system for controlling the heliostat field is part of the project. The demonstration of the entire system, including the new heliostat control system, is to take place in Jülich, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Preparatory tests will take place on DLR’s multifocus tower. Synhelion will build the world’s first industrial pilot plant for solar fuel worldwide at Brainergy Park Jülich. The components developed and optimised within the SolarFuels project will be integrated and operated there.
Together with the project partners, DLR is developing an innovative reforming reactor on a 100 kWth scale that is suitable for operation with superheated steam. The project participants see potential for optimisation in the efficiency, the flexibilisation of the feedstock (e.g. reduction of the water content) and the product gas composition, the heat transfer and the catalyst bed structure. The developments are based on results from the INDIREF project, completed in 2019, which successfully demonstrated the mixed steam and dry reforming of methane on a 20 kW scale in DLR's Synlight solar simulator.
Another focus of DLR's work is the development of a powerful control system that can be flexibly used in solar tower plants of any size. It also takes into account the special requirements of solar chemical applications. DLR is developing the control system in collaboration with Synhelion Germany GmbH.
DLR is moreover leading the work package that includes the system tests on the multifocus tower.
(Support code 03EE5085B)