BASF develops methanol process without greenhouse gas emissions

May 27, 2019

BASF announced today that it has developed a process for the production of methanol without any greenhouse gas emissions. It has applied for patents covering the technology. The company says that if the process can be successfully implemented at an industrial scale, the entire production process—from syngas production to pure methanol—will not release any carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Further development of the technology is required before it can be used in an industrial-scale plant, which is expected to take another 10 years, according to Maximilian Vicari, research project manager at BASF.

Typically, methanol is made from syngas, which until now has been primarily obtained from natural gas via a combination of steam and autothermal reforming. Using special catalysts, this can be turned into crude methanol, which can be further processed after purification. In the new BASF process, being developed at Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg, the syngas is generated by partial oxidation of natural gas, which does not involve any CO2 emissions. The subsequent process steps—methanol synthesis and distillation—can be carried out nearly unchanged, BASF says. The company has been working on this process since August 2017.

BASF, in the newly developed methanol technology, addressed the merging and processing of the waste gas streams that arise during methanol synthesis and distillation. These waste gas streams comprising methane, carbon monoxide, CO2, and hydrogen are incinerated in an Oxyfuel process with pure oxygen. This results in a small volume of flue gas with a maximum CO2 content. The flue gas is then scrubbed using BASF’s in-house gas treatment process for full recovery of the CO2. To ensure that the carbon contained in the CO2 is not lost and that it can be used again for methanol synthesis, the captured CO2 is fed back into the beginning of the process. This does, however, require additional hydrogen, which BASF also aims to produce without any CO2 emissions via methane pyrolysis.

Processes used to make the most important basic chemicals are currently responsible for around 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in the chemical industry. BASF says it is working on new technologies to substantially reduce emissions. The company has bundled all this work under its carbon management program.

“We are optimistic that our climate-friendly approach will better adapt methanol synthesis to the requirements of the 21st century,” Vicari says.

By Natasha Alperowicz

Source: Chemical Week