Formic acid, the new energy carrier


iStock_000015850102_XXXLarge.jpgVoltaChem Community Member Coval Energy has published a study entitled “Formic Acid as Energy Carrier through Electrochemical Conversion of Carbon Dioxide”. The main objective of the study - that is exclusively available for VoltaChem community members - is to investigate how formic acid can be used as an energy carrier.

According to the report of Coval Energy the global annual demand for formic acid was around 600 000 tons in 2013 with a forecasted annual growth of 3.6% to 2018. The current installed production capacity is around 700 000 tons per year.

The main applications for formic acid are in animal feed, leather tanning, silage additive and preservative and some minor applications in textile dying, as intermediate in pharmaceuticals and insecticides/pesticides, in rubber products, coatings, in drinks as preservative, in drilling fluids, construction, plasticizers and cosmetics. However the market/application potential of formic acid might be large in the future because significant lower energy (production) cost for the production of formic acid can be achieved, as compared to traditional technologies based on electro-catalytic conversion of carbon dioxide, and therefore formic acid might emerge as a new energy carrier.

The Coval Energy report focuses on the use of renewable energy sources to generate electricity in combination with the production of a large-volume platform chemical, an energy carrier (commodity) from electrochemical conversion methods, such as methanol, formic acid and hydrogen.

The following research questions have been assessed in this study:

1. What is the state-of-the-art with respect to (electrochemical) production of formic acid and hydrogen for the following cases:

  1. Case 1: Carbon-neutral transportation fuels
  2. Case 2: Use of CO2 to introduce renewable energy in the chemical production chain
  3. Case 3: Renewable hydrogen

2. How does formic acid perform in terms of cost, as compared to hydrogen, when used as an energy carrier?

  1. What are the costs for formic acid and for hydrogen production based on electrolysis?
  2. What are the costs for storage, compression, and dispensing for formic acid and hydrogen?
  3. What are the main applications of formic acid and of hydrogen in (future) renewable energy systems?

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