Project Biowert: Utilisation of biogas plants for the synthesis of chemical products – knowledge-based development of iron catalysts for Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (Duration: 01/2017 - 12/2019)

The changing political framework in Germany regarding subsidisation of renewable energy production leads to an uncertainty for the economic efficiency of more than 270 biogas plants in Saxony producing heat and power. The objective of plant manufacturers and operators is the diversification of existing plants via synthesis of high quality products. This can result in independence of governmental funding and contribute to the development of so-called “Smart Grids” regarding the transformation of the German energy production sector (Energiewende). The emphasis for the diversification of existing biogas plants will be on high priced value products like waxes for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry.

So far, industrial used waxes are produced from fossil raw materials. It is expected that the rising demand will surpass the supply of fossil waxes. In addition, unlike many fossil waxes, waxes produced by Fischer-Tropsch synthesis are harmless for cosmetic applications since they are free from polycyclic and aromatic compounds.

Beside the main product wax, the aspired process will produce green diesel, which either can be retailed directly or reconverted into electricity in periods of high electricity price. Therefore, the proposed system contributes to the transformation of the German energy production sector and features an increased profitability. The additional heat provided by the process can be used for biogas production and if necessary fed into a district heating grid. Due to the high temperature level, the heat can also be used in other processes like drying of agricultural goods.

The objective of the cooperative project “Biowert” is the development and demonstration of a catalytic process, which produces waxes from biogas for many different industrial applications in an economic manner. Thus, the biogas plant can operate independently of the political framework by providing heat, electricity and products.

TU Bergakademie Freiberg is responsible for the subproject “knowledge-based development of iron catalysts for Fischer-Tropsch synthesis”. The objective of this subproject is the design of inexpensive iron based catalysts for the synthesis as an alternative to expensive cobalt based catalysts which are commercially available. Novel catalysts with high conversion and simultaneously high degree of chain growth to the valuable and aspired paraffinic waxes will be developed based on the latest knowledge of the reaction process.