Direct Methanol Synthesis from CO2

47 Submissions
244 Views
$40,000 USD
Challenge under evaluation

Challenge overview

OVERVIEW

ExxonMobil, the Seeker for this Challenge, is interested in finding novel processes for direct conversion of CO2 to methanol (CH3OH) that improve significantly upon current conversion technologies in the areas of energy efficiency, cost to produce, capital or operational savings, and/or productivity.

Methanol is a versatile platform chemical with uses in many chemical and fuels applications. There is high potential for the conversion of captured CO2 from point sources or directly from air into methanol, an easily transportable liquid chemical/fuel, especially in cases where permanent storage solutions are less advantageous. Current processes for CO2 to methanol are very energy and capital intensive and there exists broad scope in addressing these fundamental challenges towards direct conversion of CO2 to methanol with high productivities and energy efficiencies.

This is a Prize Challenge which requires a written proposal to be submitted and there will be a guaranteed award for at least one submitted solution. By submitting a proposal, the Solver grants the Seeker a right to use any information included in their proposal.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on 18-Jan-2024.

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ABOUT THE SEEKER & ELIGIBILITY

ExxonMobil manages an industry-leading portfolio of resources and is one of the largest integrated fuels, lubricants and chemical companies in the world. We are focused on meeting society’s evolving needs for energy and essential products and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We are focused on developing meaningful growth opportunities for our employees, and working to help our industrial, commercial, and retail customers succeed by leading in operational and financial performance, building essential partnerships, leveraging our advantaged portfolio, and creating innovative solutions.

Employees of ­­­­ExxonMobil are ineligible to receive an award for this Challenge.

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THE CHALLENGE

Background

The standard method of world-scale (up to ~1 million tonnes per annum per methanol plant) methanol production since the mid-1960s has been based on the ICI methanol synthesis process which generally uses synthesis gas (CO and H2) produced from natural gas or coal as a feedstock to produce methanol. Although a small amount of CO2 is generally co-fed as part of the synthesis gas in this process, the direct, on-purpose production of methanol from CO2 is currently not practiced on the same scale. There are limited examples of CO2 to methanol processes running at smaller commercial scales, relying for a large part on conventional reactor and separation technologies. However, the current processes are very energy and capital intensive and there exists a broad scope in addressing these fundamental challenges towards direct conversion of CO2 to methanol with high productivities and energy efficiencies.

For example, the per pass methanol yield in direct CO2 hydrogenation is severely limited, by thermodynamic equilibrium, to approximately 20 - 40%. Lower temperatures and higher pressures would favor higher equilibrium yields. However, reaction rates are typically too low at the lower temperatures (e.g. < 200 °C) required for significant equilibrium conversion improvements. Operating at higher pressures (e.g. > 100 barg) can improve yields as well, but would lead to a significant increase in capital and operational expenses. In addition to the thermodynamic limitations, an equimolar amount of water is formed in the reaction of CO2 to methanol, which contributes to catalyst deactivation and complicates reactor design and downstream separations.

It is estimated that current commercial scale (i.e. > 100 kilotonnes per annum) conversion methods cost approximately 4 – 6 times more per ton of methanol vs. the conventional methanol synthesis with production costs around $200 - 300 per ton.

The Challenge

ExxonMobil is interested in assessing novel processes for direct CO2 conversion to methanol. This is a difficult problem - rather than focusing on approaches relying on conventional conversion methods, the Solvers are encouraged to take advantage of methods leveraging process intensification strategies (e.g. step skipping, reactive separation, sorption enhanced processes, integrated capture and conversion strategies, etc.). The ideas or concepts should be based on catalytic conversion pathways and conceptually be amenable to scale up to >100 kilotonnes per annum. The proposed solution should not pose significant safety, health or environmental risks when implemented on a manufacturing scale. High potential strategies, which are currently challenged in terms of conversion or the availability of technology, can be considered as solutions but should include a rationale and path forward for process can be improved in the future.

SOLUTION REQUIREMENTS

ExxonMobil is primarily interested in solutions with the potential to meet the following requirements:

Must have:

  1. Provide a significant improvement (at least 20%) in energy efficiency, cost to produce, productivity, capital or operational savings over currently available commercial direct CO2 conversion methods. The solution does not have to incorporate improvement in all these categories.
     
  2. Provide a one-step conversion strategy of CO2 to methanol. Processes involving multiple steps (e.g. reverse water gas shift or other methods for making synthesis gas from CO2) are not acceptable solutions for this Challenge.
     
  3. Should not pose significant safety, health or environmental risks when implemented on a manufacturing scale.
     
  4. The methods should (conceptually) result in methanol of lower carbon intensity and generally more sustainable (water use, etc.) than current conventionally produced methanol. A full life cycle analysis is not a requirement but the solution should be able to directionally prove this is the case.

Nice to have:

  1. The solution should leverage higher TRL level technology (> TRL 4) and include a realistic timeline for implementation within the next decade.

In addition, solutions with Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 1-3 are also invited, with ideas about WHAT to do:

This is a Prize Challenge with a guaranteed award, which has the following features:

  1. There will be a guaranteed award for at least one submitted solution. The best solution(s) has the opportunity to win all or part of the guaranteed award of $40,000 USD, as solely determined by ExxonMobil.
  2. The total payout will be $40,000, with at least one award being no smaller than $20,000 and no award being smaller than $5,000.
  3. By submitting a proposal, the Solver grants ExxonMobil a royalty-free, perpetual and non-exclusive right to use any information included in their proposal.
  4. ExxonMobil may also issue “Honorable Mention” recognitions for notable submissions that are not selected for monetary awards.

YOUR SUBMISSION

Please login and register your interest, to complete the submission form.

 The submitted proposals must be written in English and should include:

  1. Participation type – you will first be asked to inform us how you are participating in this challenge, as a Solver (Individual) or Solver (Organization).
  2. Solution Stage - the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of your solution, TRL1-3 ideation stage, TRL4-6 proof of concept stage, TRL7-9 production ready stage.
  3. Problem & Opportunity - highlight the innovation in your approach to the Problem, its point of difference, and the specific advantages/benefits this brings. Include a quantified (high level) estimate of energy/cost benefits of the identified solution (up to 500 words).
  4. Solution Overview - detail the features of your solution and how they address the Solution Requirements (up to 500 words, there is space to add more, and to add any appropriate supporting data, diagrams, etc). 
  5. Experience - Use cases and skills you or your organization have in relation to your proposed solution. Please reference any key experts/technology licensors/facilities. ExxonMobil may wish to partner at the conclusion of the Challenge; please include a statement indicating your interest in partnering (up to 500 words).
  6. Solution Risks - List key technology enablers or key current challenge/barriers to make technology successful (up to 500 words).
  7. Timeline, capability and costs - Describe what you think is required to deliver the solution, estimated time and cost (up to 500 words).
  8. References - provide links to any publications or press releases of relevance (up to 500 words).

Wazoku encourages the use by Solvers of AI approaches to help develop their submissions, though any produced solely with generative AI are not of interest.

Find out more about participation in Wazoku Crowd Challenges.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on 18-Jan-2024.

Late submissions will not be considered.

Your submission will be evaluated by the evaluation team first reviewing the information and content you have submitted at the submission form, with attachments used as additional context to your form submission. Submissions relying solely on attachments will receive less attention from the evaluation team.

After the Challenge submission due date, ExxonMobil will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the winning solution(s) according to the timeline in the Challenge header. All Solvers who submit a proposal will be notified about the status of their submissions.

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