ECN part of TNO is developing solutions to make the energy system in industry more sustainable through the use of heat pumps, CO2 capture and ultra-deep geothermal energy, among other things. In addition, we are working on new energy-saving production processes that emit far less CO2.
Sectors such as chemicals, paper and food use gas-fired steam systems to meet their heat demand up to 200 degrees Celsius. Together with technology suppliers and end users, ECN part of TNO is developing heat pump technologies for industrial applications. By upgrading the low-temperature residual heat to the required process temperature by means of heat pumps and reusing it, the heat system becomes much more energy-efficient. This gain is doubled if the heat pump is operated by sustainably generated electricity. The CO2 emissions for the heat supply will then be reduced to zero. Industry kills two birds with one stone: companies help to make the heat system more sustainable and at the same time save energy and money.
ECN part of TNO is active through VoltaChem, among others, in a series of national and international projects to accelerate the electrification of industry, working together with companies, universities and other knowledge institutes to this end. The electrification of production processes is unavoidable in order to make industry net CO2 neutral. We are working on pioneering technologies such as electrolysis, conversion of sustainable hydrogen into fuels and chemicals (Power2Hydrogen), conversion of electricity into heat (Power2Heat) and direct electrochemical conversion into chemicals (Power2Chemicals). When developing new technologies, an additional challenge is to integrate the highly fluctuating supply of renewable electricity into the industrial process.
Using energy and raw materials efficiently
Many industrial processes are inefficient when it comes to using energy and raw materials. ECN part of TNO is therefore working on more efficient conversion and separation technologies in order to achieve the highest possible conversion of raw materials into products, with the least possible energy loss. The emphasis is on developing methods in which reaction and separation are combined in a single reactor. Key technologies for this are membranes and adsorbents. We are also working on new separation technologies based on ion exchange and electrically driven separation, particularly for the recovery of residues. This will contribute to a circular economy, save a great deal of energy and reduce CO2 emissions. We transfer promising technologies to industry after successful lab tests and then pilots. The ultimate application of our knowledge in processes contributes to making industry more sustainable and at the same time offers opportunities for newcomers to the market.
CO2 capture, use and storage
The energy-intensive sector, in particular the steel, cement, refining and (petro)chemical industries, will continue to depend on fossil raw materials and fuels for a long time, thus producing large quantities of CO2 for a long time to come. The capture, use and storage of CO2 (CCUS) is therefore essential in order to achieve a sustainable, climate-neutral energy household. We are working for and with industrial parties and academic and scientific institutions to further improve and roll out techniques that can be introduced to the market in the near future. Our industrial partners in the steel, cement and refining sectors, as well as their suppliers, play an important role in this respect.