Plasma technology takes center stage at fourth edition of VoltaChem Power-2-X Tour

26-11-2021 | Event report | P2Hydrogen | P2Chemicals

Plasma technology takes center stage at fourth edition of VoltaChem Power-2-X TourThe fourth edition of VoltaChem's online Power-2-X tour on November 18th formed a prelude to the opening of the Brightsite Plasmalab later that same day. The talk show, attended online by some 150 viewers, was all about plasma as a promising upcoming Power-2-X technology for decarbonization of the chemical industry towards 2030 and 2050. It highlighted topics such as the current state of plasma technology, expected developments and opportunities for industrial application.

The final edition of the successful Power-2-X Tour was broadcast live from the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Sittard-Geleen, where it formed the start of a full ‘Plasma Day’. Following the VoltaChem’s online talk show was the Brightsite Science Lecture by Prof. Niek Lopez Cardozo who outlined a broader scientific perspective on fusion energy and the energy transition, including the breakthroughs and current challenges of plasma physics. The highlight of the day was the opening of the Brightsite Plasmalab, an initiative of Brightsite, the knowledge center in which VoltaChem founding partner TNO collaborates with Maastricht University, Sitech Services, and Brightlands Chemelot Campus. The new lab aims at optimizing existing plasma technology and developing new plasma processes that are of relevance to the chemical industry. In line with VoltaChem's mission it thus enables the electrification of chemical processes using (green) electricity to produce hydrogen and other chemical feedstocks without releasing any CO2

At the table of the Power-2-X Tour, VoltaChem co-host Reinier Grimbergen brought a hammer to illustrate the power of plasma: "It's basically a chemical sledgehammer, breaking down molecular bonds". According to the Principal Consultant, plasma can become "one of the key technologies for the energy and feedstock transition that industry is currently facing". Grimbergen was joined at the table by Jeff Mason, CCO at Transform Materials (USA); Sander van Bavel, Principal Scientist at Shell; and Hans Linden, Program Manager at Brightsite/TNO. The talk show, led by table host Jerre Maas, also saw a contribution by Leon Jacobs, Director Sustainability Europe at SABIC, on role of plasma in the valorization of 'stranded methane' from e-crackers. The online audience provided meaningful input to the talk show via the online interaction tool, by posing interesting questions to the table guests and by voting on various polls.

Revival of technology

Plasma is a state of matter where matter exists in an ionized, 'activated' form. It can be considered an 'electric flame' where electricity directly creates an environment to perform chemistry. Without the actual need for high temperatures and without burning fossil fuels. Using renewable electricity then of course provides the option to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the chemical industry. In addition, it enables a new kind of chemistry, giving rise to new processes - among them CH4 conversion to emission-free hydrogen and carbon-based products .

In his introduction, Grimbergen mentioned that plasma technology in chemistry, although sometimes considered 'high tech', is in fact something from the past. "There has been a lot of German development in the 30s of the previous century. We now see a revival of that knowledge." To which Van Bavel added that new technological opportunities make the plasma field "even more exciting than almost a century ago". The table guests acknowledged that plasma technology has in the course of time been replaced by lower-cost chemical technologies. But now that sustainability has become a crucial driver, there are good chances that will reverse. Or, as Mason put it: "We'll get there. Technology always finds its way." Transform Materials has developed a highly selective technology to convert methane to acetylene (and subsequent high-value products) using a microwave-generated plasma. Backed by investors, the company is gearing up for building its first plant and also expanding business to Europe with the Brightlands Chemelot Campus as its operating base. Mason is quite confident that a profitable market will be developed. This confidence was shared among his table companions, who all regarded plasma as a very promising and enabling 'low carbon' technology. "There's not just one plasma technology", Grimbergen mentioned, "there are many different types of plasma technology that will probably all find their relevance in the future sustainable chemical industry." Van Bavel agreed, but underpinned the relevance of assessing the energy -feedstock - intermediates - products value chains for establishing the relevance and opportunities for each individual technology. 

Speeding up development

Hans Linden took the opportunity to elaborate somewhat on the plans of the Brightsite Plasmalab. To speed up the development and establish relevance to the chemical industry in a timely fashion, the lab will focus on multiple technologies and team up with high-tech companies that have crucial expertise. It will facilitate high-pressure, high-power experiments thanks to the facilities, safety awareness and expertise available at Brightlands Chemelot Campus. It will also focus on advanced modelling, of plasmas as well as chemical conversions, to establish the boundary conditions for scale up. Linden mentioned ammonia production and olefin production from naphtha (steam cracking) as the two major challenges for rendering the chemical industry sustainable. "So we are looking to apply plasma in both fields and are looking towards hydrogen and ethylene production. Energy-wise plasma technology is an interesting option to produce emission free hydrogen – thermodynamically more efficient than water electrolysis technologies."

Many other topics were discussed during the talk show. You can watch (parts of) it using the links below.

Watch (parts of) talk show

Full talk show

  • Welcome, introduction of the theme and the guests (watch)
  • First topic: Plasma as a game changer towards a circular industry (watch
    • Video pitch by Leon Jacobs (Director Sustainability Europe at SABIC) (watch
  • Second topic: The short-term approach (watch)
  • Third topic: Future perspectives (watch
  • Round up, including review of previous Power-2-X Tours (watch)

Other Plasma Day events

You can also watch the other two Plasma Day events:

  • Opening Brightsite Plasmalab (watch)
  • Brightlands Science Lecture (watch)

Photo impression

VoltaChem Power-2-X Tour #4
 

Get in touch with the table guests

Would you like to get in touch with one of the table guests? Then reach out to our business developers (details below), or contact:

 

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Contact:

Reinier Grimbergen

Business Development Power-to-Chemicals/ Specialties

+31 6 271 438 18

reinier.grimbergen@voltachem.com

LinkedIn

Ties van Maaren

Senior Business Developer

+31 6 212 348 41

ties.vanmaaren@voltachem.com

LinkedIn

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