ECCSEL RI updates - 18 Oct 2021

A new pilot facility for CO2 conversion into e-fuels

CO2 conversion into renewable fuels (e-fuels) is one of the key approaches towards the energy transition. It allows both to decarbonise different “hard-to-abate” sectors (such as heavy transport) and to chemically store renewable electricity's overproduction.


In this field, Sotacarbo is working on the experimental development of new catalysts for CO2 hydrogenation into renewable methanol and dimethyl ether (DME), thanks to the XtL bench-scale unit available at the research centre in Carbonia (Italy) and part of the ECCSEL ERIC research infrastructure. Following the comprehensive experience gained in this topic, a new pilot-scale unit is under construction to allow a whole process development at TRL-6.


The new “power to green fuels” unit is a versatile catalytic unit designed to study the conversion of CO2 into products like methane (CH4), methanol (CH3OH), and dimethyl ether (CH3OCH3), in a pilot scale (up to 5 kg/h of product).


The unit’s core consists of two parallel catalytic reactors (a 12 x 1.3 m length multitubular reactor and a 6.6 m length single tube reactor, chosen to make the unit capable for different kinds of tests). Due to the experimental nature of the unit, the reactors have been designed in order to operate up to 60 bar at 350 °C and up to 30 bar at 450 °C. The system is fully automated, and it is controlled from a workstation that recovers all the process parameters and integrates the logic loops and alarms. The unit comes with two analysis components:

  • a non-dispersive infrared detector that gives real time information of the inlet and outlet effluents of the system
  • a gas chromatograph for on-line analysis of the gases at the different stages of the process.


The unit – funded by the Italian Ministry of Ecologic Transition within the “Research on Electric System” national program – has been designed in collaboration with Vinci Technologies SA (Nanterre, France) and it is currently under assembling. It is expected to be installed at the Sotacarbo research centre in December 2021 and to be available for experimental operation through ECCSEL ERIC in early 2022.


Photo credit: Sotacarbo