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(C) Fraunhofer IME 2015Fuel and chemicals from steel plant exhaust gases

July 2015. Carbon monoxide-rich exhaust gases from steel plants are only being reclaimed to a minor extent as power or heat. The chimneys of the Duisburg Stahlwerke alone unleash several million tons of carbon dioxide. Fraunhofer has developed a process by which these exhaust fumes can be reclaimed and recycled into fuels and specialty chemicals. The biochemists at IME use syngas – a mixture of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen – as a carbon resource for fermentation. Using bacterial strains of the Clostridium species, the syngas transforms either into short-chain alcohols like butanol and hexanol, or into acetone. To do so, IME engineered new genetic processes for the efficient integration of large gene clusters in the Clostridium genome. At the same time, Fraunhofer further expanded its syngas fermentation system and used it for experiments with the steel and chemicals industry.

Participants include the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME in Aachen, as well as the Institute for Environment, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen and the Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal. The patented process currently operates on the laboratory scale.

The chemists around Axel Kraft at UMSICHT evaporate the residual fermentation products and in a continuous catalytic process, couple the fermentation molecules into an intermediate product consisting of long-chain alcohols and ketones. This interim product already meets the standards for ship diesel, and, like fats and oils, can be converted through hydrogenation into diesel fuel for cars or kerosene for planes. Kristian Kowollik from the environmental engineering department at ICT obtains specialty chemicals from the interim product connected with this, which already can now directly replace petroleum-based products. For example, amines can be used in the pharmaceutical industry or the production of tensides and dying agents.

Source: Fraunhofer 

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