New power-to-x study seeks cost and energy efficiency in key technologies

LUT University's research project P2XEnable will continue exploring power-to-x (P2X) to improve the energy and cost efficiency of key technologies. The research aims for new, modular applications that enable mass production.

P2X technology plays an essential role in making energy systems and industrial production emission-free. The basic idea of P2X technology is to convert electricity into another form of energy and, if need be, back to electricity. It is applicable to, for instance, the production of synthetic fuels, chemicals and edible proteins.

LUT has researched P2X extensively since 2014. LUT's electrical engineering professor and the director of the P2XEnable project Jarmo Partanen says that the need for chemicals, fuels and chemical storages produced from hydrogen and carbon dioxide with renewable electricity will increase radically in the coming years.

"Improving the energy and cost efficiency of emission-free production processes is a key question in the pursuit of climate goals. We are experiencing a global industrial transition where Finnish companies have the potential to succeed. The transition requires new expertise, which is largely generated in Finland," explains Partanen.

Partanen lists the key P2X technologies of the new research project: water electrolysis for hydrogen manufacture, carbon dioxide capture from the atmosphere and sea water, methanol synthesis with a novel modular reactor, and high-temperature heat storages.

"The energy and cost efficiency of all of these technologies can be improved in different ways. For example, up to 85% of the cost of hydrogen production results from energy consumption. We know that the quality of the electricity has a significant effect on the energy efficiency of electrolysis and the degradation of the cells, but we know nothing more about the impacts. These are examples of the kind of research data that industry needs."

Partanen goes on to say that heat storages and the P2X technologies connected to them are important in evening out the deviation between production and consumption. The project also examines buildings as potential applications targets for heat storages and P2X technologies.

"Buildings are an interesting application target for P2X. We are creating models for enhancing indoor air quality by capturing carbon dioxide and using it to manufacture hydrocarbons with electricity. This is yet another way of making our business potential visible."

According to Partanen, techniques for capturing carbon dioxide from sea water have been studied very little. LUT is aiming for a proof-of-concept for sea water capture equipment.

Potential global importance of electric food?

LUT's P2XEnable project will also create a techno-economic model of so-called electric food production – food made from air and carbon dioxide with electricity.

LUT has a lengthy history of modelling the transition to a carbon-neutral energy system, with Professor Christian Breyer at the helm.  Breyer's group has expanded its database and the modelling based on it to cover the transport sector and heat production.

"The techno-economic modelling of electric food production is a new initiative for us, and our study is the first in the world to examine the business potential of this area to this extent. Our research will enable businesses to plan their future operations and make related cost and energy efficiency requirements for technologies visible," concludes Partanen.

More information:

Jarmo Partanen, Professor, LUT School of Energy Systems, Jarmo.Partanen@lut.fi, phone: +358 40 506 6564

Remarkable CO2 emission reductions by modular power (P2XEnable) is a 2.1 million euro research project headed by LUT University.  Business Finland is providing most of the funding. LUT's partners in the project include Aalto University and a number of business enterprises. The project entity also includes two private corporate projects. The research is estimated to continue until July 2022, and a project website will be opened during the summer 2020.