Affordable and Clean Energy
Access to energy is an important requirement for development and prosperity. At the same time, the demands of climate protection and environmental relief must also be considered. To balance conflicting rights, we need new concepts to lower overall energy consumption and encourage the use of renewable energy sources. Since 2010, energy intensity has decreased by around 2 percent per annum (source: International Energy Agency, “Energy Efficiency 2017”). However, due to global economic growth, absolute CO2 emissions have continued to rise. Consequently, energy efficiency is needed in many different areas. This begins with raw material production and energy generation, continues through use in energy-intensive production processes and, of course, includes private consumption in the form of mobility, lighting, heating, cooling, and digital storage. A new chapter is opening up with the current research into separating and using CO2 as a raw material.
Evonik develops innovative products and solutions for affordable, clean energy: More than 50 percent of our products make a verifiable contribution to resource efficiency in our customers’ applications. These include products for lightweight construction, additives in “green tires” to reduce rolling resistance, lubricant additives for improved power transmission and durability, insulation materials, and feed additives, to name just a few. We are also continuously improving the efficiency of energy generation and use in our production processes.
Evonik has many products and solutions for wind power. These include crosslinkers and adhesive additives for the right mix of stability and flexibility that is required for the construction of increasingly larger and, consequently, more cost-effective wind turbines. The rotor blades must not become soft at high temperatures or brittle at low temperatures. Special coating additives, such as silicone-epoxy resins and silica, protect the complete system against weathering effects, such as UV light, sand, salt, rain, and ice. Special oil additives increase the time between oil changes, ensure optimum viscosity within a wide temperature range, contribute to high mechanical resilience, and increase gearbox service life. As a result, the systems can work for long periods without maintenance. This high-tech approach is worthwhile: After all, as the large turbines become more failsafe and efficient, this will make green electricity from wind cheaper and more reliable.
Biogas is regarded as an environmentally friendly energy source and is becoming increasingly important for modern energy generation. It can be used for electricity and heat production or as a fuel and achieves high energy yields. However, extensive upgrading and cleaning measures are necessary before it can be fed into the natural gas system. In addition to the energy source methane, biogas also contains carbon dioxide (CO2) and other trace gases. Because of this, chemists and engineers asked themselves how gas separation could become more efficient. Eventually they discovered a special polymer with outstanding separation properties under the right pressure and temperature conditions. Evonik’s new membrane technology delivers gases with a high purity level of more than 98 percent and is thus much superior to other technologies as regards energy and resource efficiency. With this technology, up to one million tons of CO2 per year can be saved compared to conventional processes.
Energy efficient power station in Marl
In 2016, at our site in Marl, Germany, we replaced the old coal-fired power plant with a high efficiency gas-steam turbine power station. With this measure alone, we save up to 280,000 metric tons of CO2 per annum – the equivalent of the emissions from a town with a population of 30,000. The plant also fulfills the role of a backup power station for the renewable energies in the system. If the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing, the gas power station can take over directly and even feed electricity into the public grid. This protects the electricity grid against fluctuations and potential breakdowns – an important contribution to the benefits of affordable, clean energy.
Specialty chemicals from CO2 and renewable energies
In a joint project involving Evonik and Siemens, 20 scientists are currently working on artificial photosynthesis on an industrial scale. The aim is – by using electricity from renewable energy sources and gas fermentation – to produce specialty chemicals from CO2, which will be used in plastics, food supplements or even in fuels. The “Rheticus” project is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. A pilot plant is to be built in Marl by 2021.