Synhelion and Wood collaborate on solar technology milestone

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Swiss clean energy company, Synhelion, recently announced a major milestone by becoming the first company in the world to successfully produce syngas on an industrial scale using only solar heat as an energy source, through their innovative solar technology.

In May 2021, Wood and Synhelion announced their partnership to provide solar-based synthetic fuels to the market. Synhelion’s solar thermal process to produce synthetic fuels uses high-temperature solar heat to yield syngas – a blend of hydrogen and carbon monoxide that is a steppingstone to cleaner energy production and solar fuels.

3D solar tower and mirror field

As part of the collaboration, the companies have been working together to design, build, install and commission an industrial scale hydrogen and syngas plant at a solar testing facility in Jülich, Germany. Image supplied by Synhelion

By combining Synhelion’s solar technologies with Wood’s proprietary hydrogen reforming reactor, where the syngas is produced, the companies are accelerating the path towards affordable and scalable syngas production whilst finding sustainable solutions to address the climate crisis.

Brian McCarthy, Wood’s Vice President of Technology and Products said, “Ground-breaking innovative technology developments like this are key to achieve global decarbonisation targets and reduce the carbon intensity of hard-to-abate sectors. Producing syngas on an industrial scale is a fantastic milestone for Synhelion as well as a clear step forward to producing clean, efficient and sustainable fuel alternatives.

“Wood is proud to supply our gas heated reactor technology which can increase the capacity of existing hydrogen production assets whilst also driving for the lowest possible carbon intensity production - key immediate needs in the transition to a clean hydrogen market”

What is a Solar fuel?

Current technologies create syngas using water and hydrocarbon feedstocks and require a vast amount of energy which is normally provided by natural gas or other fossil fuel sources of combustion. Synhelion have created a process to create synthetic, carbon-neutral fuels through the power of the sun, an abundant renewable source. This means cleaner, more sustainable production which can reduce the CO2 emissions of hard-to-abate sectors such as aviation.

What will solar fuel’s role be in achieving net-zero?

Syngas is a crucial component in a number of processes to produce hydrogen, chemicals and various transportation fuels, including non-traditional pathways to gasoline, diesel and conventional jet engine fuel. The transportation industry is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and accounts for around 21% of global carbon emissions1.

By harnessing solar energy, the lifecycle CO2 emissions involved in the production and end use of these products can be significantly reduced. Since solar fuels are compatible with conventional planes, ships, heavy duty trucks and cars, there is no need for modifications in the furnaces or engines that consume these fuels, making them a drop-in, lower-carbon solution that can lead to a cleaner future for transportation.

1Net Zero by 2050 – Analysis - IEA

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