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Pr. Kevin Van Geem

Ghent University, Laboratory for Chemical Technology, Belgium


Talk Title
Challenges & opportunities of electrochemical conversion process: case study of CO2 to ethylene

Talk Abstract

It has been recognized that the discovery of efficient technologies that enable the use of carbon dioxide as a starting material for chemical synthesis is one of the biggest scientific challenges of our time. It is undeniable that people are reluctant to change, and although building in such a feedback loop has never been considered before, it might just be the game changer to drive this CO2 utilization revolution of the chemical industry. Making use of renewable energy sources could serve the dual purpose of producing value added chemicals using CO2 as a C1 building block while at the same time reducing CO2 emissions. If this could be carried out at large scale (megaton) than this would definitely help to mitigate the effects of climate change by recycling part of the waste CO2 while creating new opportunities for the chemical industry, making it one of the top research priorities of the EU to reach its 2050 climate objectives in a cost-effective way. Among all the proposed methods for the conversion of CO2, which have as common advantage the ease of integration of non- or low carbon energy sources (i.e. thermochemical, photochemical …), the electrochemical method is considered to be one of the most promising, as several advantages have been claimed compared to the other methods: (1) it can be conducted at ambient conditions (allowing for rapid changes in the production rate as the availability of the renewable energy changes); (2) by a careful selection of the electro catalyst, electrolyte and operating conditions, it is possible to drive the electrochemical conversion of CO2 towards the desired products; (3) the chemical consumption can be minimized by recycling the electrolytes; (4) the reaction systems are compact, modular and hence scale-up is relatively easy. However, there are clear disadvantages of electrification, such as the overall high cost of electricity, the large investment costs, the often poor selectivities and low conversions related to low reaction rates, (resulting in large reactor volumes needed for a world-scale plant), economic feasibility of turning plants on and off safely, etc. This means that there is a lot of skepticism if "electrification" is actually feasible or if it is another hype like the numerous ones that have been presented in the last two decades. The goal of this work is to review most if not all pro's and con's based on the present state of the art, identify the critical path to electrify the chemical industry and summarize the areas where breakthroughs are needed. This is illustrated by a case study for the electrification of the CO2 conversion route.

Short Biography

Kevin Van Geem (full professor) is member of the Laboratory for Chemical Technology of Ghent University and director of the Centre of Sustainable Chemistry. Thermochemical reaction engineering in general and in particular the transition from fossil to renewable resources are his main research interests. He is a former Fulbright Research Scholar of MIT and directs the Pilot plant for steam cracking and pyrolysis. He is the author of more than hundred fifty scientific publications and has recently started his own spin-off company.

He is involved in on-line and off-line analysis of complex petrochemical and biochemical samples using comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography. Pyrolysis, detailed kinetic modeling, process, scale-up, modeling, and antifouling technology belong to his main expertise.

Talk Keywords
CO2 conversion, electrocatalysis, renewable and sustainable energy.
Target Audience
Stuents, academica, industry, government, NGOs
Speaker-intro video

The International Conference on Innovative Applied Energy (IAPE’18)