Traditionally, crude oil and natural gas are used as the main carbon feedstock for transportation fuels and for the production of platform chemicals/basic feedstock (e.g. methanol, ethylene, H2, NH3, synthetic natural gas) which are essential starting materials for the production of other value-added products/fuels (e.g. plastics, fertilizer, pharmaceutical products, gasoline etc.). However, concerns about price fluctuations, depleting resources, climate change and concentration of oil and gas reserves in politically instable regions have led to the search for alternative feedstock by diverse sectors. Carbon resources that are viable alternative feedstock for the production of platform chemicals/fuels range from biomass, coal, CO2 to waste. In view of the important role of platform chemicals/fuels for the German industry, three vital issues for both industrial as well as policy decision-makers are 1) technological innovations focusing on increasing the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and sustainable production of platform chemicals/fuels, 2) securing the raw materials supply chain, 3) obtaining social support for proposed solutions and developments. These three aspects represent key building blocks for a raw materials transition in the industrial sectors which are dependent on carbon feedstock for their activities.
At the technological level, the key questions relate to which are the most promising technologies/processes for the sustainable production of platform chemicals/fuels. At the resource chain level, technological evaluations are extended from a focus on evaluating technologies/processes per se to include upstream factors in production pathway such as the location, extraction, transport and processing of raw materials. The societal level relates to public knowledge, perception and acceptance of diverse carbon resources as well as associated infrastructures and technologies.
The STEEP-CarbonTrans research group addresses the three aspects representing important building blocks for a raw materials transition in Germany in the following research work packages:
- Evaluation of existing and promising technologies
- Value chain assessment of alternative carbon feedstock
- Societal knowledge, perception and acceptance of alternative carbon feedstock and associated technologies and infrastructures
- Education, social engagement measures and decision-support toolbox
- Project management