Issue 7, 2021

Comparing pathways for electricity-based production of dimethoxymethane as a sustainable fuel


Synthetic dimethoxymethane (DMM) is a promising fuel or blend component as it offers outstanding combustion characteristics. DMM production from hydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) is technically feasible with established technology but results in a low overall process efficiency. Recent research in catalyst development has increased DMM yield significantly and new reaction pathways have been proposed. Yet, it remains unknown how the achievements in catalyst development affect process performance. To close this gap, we analyze processes based on five reaction pathways regarding exergy efficiency, production cost, and climate impact. As the pathways have different technology readiness levels, we develop a methodology that ensures consistent boundary conditions and model detail between pathways. The methodology enables a hierarchical optimization-based process design and evaluation. The results show that the non-oxidative (i.e., reductive, dehydrogenative, and transfer-hydrogenative) pathways consume stoichiometrically less H2 not only than the established and oxidative pathway, but also less than most other electricity-based fuels (e-fuels). The higher resource efficiency of these pathways increases process exergy efficiency from 75% to 84%; production cost (2.1$ Ldiesel-eq.−1) becomes competitive to other e-fuels; and the impact on climate change reduces by up to 92% compared to fossil diesel, if renewable electricity is utilized. Whereas the reductive pathway may already enable a sustainable production of DMM with only little catalyst improvements, the dehydrogenative and transfer-hydrogenative pathways still require a higher DMM selectivity and methanol conversion, respectively. With considerable catalyst improvements, a maximum exergy efficiency of 92% and minimum production cost of 2.0$ Ldiesel-eq.−1 are achievable. Our analyses show: With the non-oxidative pathways, the high potential of DMM is no longer restricted to its outstanding combustion characteristics but extended to its production.

Graphical abstract: Comparing pathways for electricity-based production of dimethoxymethane as a sustainable fuel

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Article information

Article type
05 Mar 2021
27 Apr 2021
First published
18 Jun 2021
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY license

Energy Environ. Sci., 2021,14, 3686-3699

Comparing pathways for electricity-based production of dimethoxymethane as a sustainable fuel

J. Burre, D. Bongartz, S. Deutz, C. Mebrahtu, O. Osterthun, R. Sun, S. Völker, A. Bardow, J. Klankermayer, R. Palkovits and A. Mitsos, Energy Environ. Sci., 2021, 14, 3686 DOI: 10.1039/D1EE00689D

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