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(609a) The Solar Fuels Research Program within the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI)

Authors: 
Ashman, P. J., The University of Adelaide
Nathan, G. J., The University of Adelaide
van Eyk, P., University of Adelaide
Saw, W., Centre for Energy Technology
Guo, P., The University of Adelaide
Pye, J., The Australian National University
Lipinski, W., The Australian National University
Stechel, E., Arizona State University
Weimer, A. W., University of Colorado Boulder
Steinfeld, A., ETH Zurich
Hinkley, J., CSIRO
Bayon, A., CSIRO
Metha, G., The University of Adelaide
Losic, D., The University of Adelaide
Venkataraman, M., The Australian National University
The advanced concentrated solar thermal (CST) technologies being developed in the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI) can be applied for electricity generation and production of chemical fuels. ASTRI is an eight-year research program supported by the Australian Government, through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The ASTRI program is a consortium of leading Australian universities and CSIRO, and in close partnership with several international collaborators. In particular, this solar fuels research program within ASTRI aims at demonstrating production of liquid fuels to increase the share of CST in Australiaâ??s energy supply and lower greenhouse gases emissions.

With a vast array of possible processes and parameters involved in the conversion of solar heat to liquid fuels, a key part of this project has been to identify and prioritise potential pathways. A number chemical pathways, using various feedstock, are being developed and analysed. These include low cost fossil fuels, biomass, CO2 and H2O. Technologies being developed to support these processes are:

  • A solar hybridised dual fluidised bed gasifier for processing of dry solid feedstocks, such as lignite, biomass or their mixture;
  • A solarised supercritical water gasifier for processing of wet solid feedstocks, such as micro-algae;
  • A solar redox reactor for syngas production from H2O and CO2 by redox cycling;

The proposed solar fuels technologies is complimented by with the development of processes required to convert the syngas, which produced by the above processes into high-value liquid hydrocarbon fuels. Technologies being investigated to support the advancement of solar thermal production of liquid fuels are:

  • Catalytic materials that reduce the sensitivity of the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reactor to variability of the quality and quantity of the feedstocks and/or lowering cost for the process
  • Advanced Sabatier reaction to utilise the waste stream of CO2 emitted from the proposed solar fuels technologies by targeting enhanced production of higher value products than its conventional use for methane, such as propane and methanol.

The overall aim of this paper is to estimate the cost of the production of a drop-in solar fuel (interchangeable with convention fuels) that can be chosen as realistic target with a goal to produce liquid fuels at a cost well below AUD1.50/L (excise-free at the gate of the plant) in Australia.