Decarbonisation Technology August 2022 issue


Methane PtCH








Gas grid

Power generation



Storage caverns

Petrol, diesel, jet fuel




Figure 3 PtX pathways

significant, in part because non-road transport and chemicals continue to require hydrocarbons. Biofuels supplement the liquid fuel mix and continue to grow. Refineries look very different. There may be fewer of them, but those that remain are dramatically more complex and flexible, and produce much greater proportions of petrochemicals and other non-fuels products. Power-to-X A key development here could be power- to-X (PtX) technology, which turns renewable electricity into heat, hydrogen, synthetic kero/jet and chemicals, and offers numerous utilisation pathways (see Figure 3 ). One reason this is attractive is that it facilitates the storage of renewable energy, which is naturally intermittent. For example, excess wind-turbine power produced during blustery weather often has to be disconnected from the grid. With PtX technology, it could be used to generate hydrogen through electrolysis, which can be stored. PtX technology requires large amounts of CO₂, which, to avoid additional greenhouse gas emissions, should be captured directly from the air rather than from industrial processes, which requires another emerging technology: direct air capture. Right now, although 19 direct air capture plants are operating worldwide, they have much higher energy costs than other CO₂ capture technologies, chiefly because vast air quantities must be processed due to CO₂ in the atmosphere being so dilute. Nevertheless,

some analysts believe the cost will fall as the technology matures. Conclusions A wide range of technologies will be necessary for the world to navigate to a new, lower- carbon energy system, some of which are still in development. In the short term, it will be necessary for energy companies to follow the dual objectives of remaining competitive while beginning to adapt or reposition their businesses for the energy system of the future. This will require them to move molecules incrementally to the most profitable path. Blue hydrogen will play an increasingly important role, as will biofuels. In the medium term, the energy transition is likely to accelerate, and we may see a move from blue hydrogen to green, with industrial clusters being key enablers. In the longer term, the emergence of PtX technologies could see liquid fuels being made from renewable electricity and CO₂ from the air. * CANSOLV is a Shell trademark. Scenarios are not intended to be predictions of likely future events. Read the full cautionary note in www.

Nick Flinn Chris Egby


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