Audi produces first batch of synthetic e‑diesel fuel

Audi produces first batch of synthetic e‑diesel fuel

PopUp595_397AU150268_small-2After a four-month commissioning phase a pilot plant in Dresden, Germany has started production of synthetic Audi e‑diesel fuel derived from carbon dioxide.

To demonstrate its suitability for everyday use, the German federal minister of education and research Dr Johanna Wanka put the first five litres into her official car, an Audi A8 3.0 TDI quattro earlier this week.

“This synthetic diesel is made using CO2, and is a huge success for our sustainability research. If we can make widespread use of CO2 as a raw material, we will make a crucial contribution to climate protection and put the fundamentals of the “green economy” in place,” says Wanka.

Dresden-based energy technology corporation Sunfire operates the plant in partnership with Audi. It uses the power‑to‑liquid (PtL) principle and green power to produce a liquid fuel. The only raw materials needed are water and carbon dioxide. The CO2 used is supplied by a biogas facility.

Initially a portion of the CO2 needed was extracted from the ambient air by means of direct air capturing, a technology belonging to Audi’s Zurich‑based partner Climeworks.

Production of the Audi e‑diesel involves various steps: First, water heated up to form steam is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by means of high-temperature electrolysis. This process, involving a temperature in excess of 800 degrees Celsius, is more efficient than conventional techniques because of heat recovery.

Another special feature of high-temperature electrolysis is that it can be used dynamically, to stabilise the grid when production of green power peaks.

In two further steps, the hydrogen reacts with the CO2 in synthesis reactors, again under pressure and at high temperature. The reaction product is a liquid made from long‑chain hydrocarbon compounds, known as blue crude.

The efficiency of the overall process – from renewable power to liquid hydrocarbon – is very high at around 70%. Similar to fossil-based crude oil, blue crude can be refined to yield the end product being Audi e‑diesel.

This synthetic fuel is free from sulphur and aromatic hydrocarbons, and its high cetane number means it is readily ignitable. As lab tests conducted at Audi have shown, it is suitable for mixing with fossil-based diesel or as a fuel in its own right.

The German federal ministry of education and research has supported the Sunfire project, which started in May 2012. Construction work on the facility in Dresden began in July 2013 and the plant was commissioned on November 14, 2014. The plant is set to produce more than 3,000 litres of Audi e‑diesel over the coming months.

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