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31.03.2022

En­vi­ron­men­tal and Eco­no­mic Per­for­mance of CO2-Ba­sed Me­tha­nol Pro­duc­tion Using Long-Dis­tan­ce Trans­port for H2 in Com­bi­na­ti­on with CO2 Point Sour­ces: A Ca­se Stu­dy for Ger­ma­ny

The use of CO2-based hydrocarbons plays a crucial role in reducing the climate footprint for several industry sectors, such as the chemical industry. Recent studies showed that regions which are favorable for the production of CO2-based hydrocarbons from an energy perspective often do not provide concentrated point sources for CO2, which leads to an increased environmental impact due to the higher energy demand of direct air capture processes. Thus, producing H2 in regions with high renewable power potential and transporting it to industrialized regions with concentrated CO2 point sources could provide favorable options for the whole process chain. The aim of this study is to analyze and compare pathways to produce CO2-based methanol in Germany using a local CO2 point source in combination with the import of H2 per pipeline or per ship as well as H2 produced in Germany. The environmental and economic performance of the pathways are assessed using life cycle assessment and cost analysis. As environmental indicators, the climate, material, water, and land footprints were calculated. The pathway that uses H2 produced with electricity from offshore wind parks in Germany shows the least environmental impacts, whereas the import via pipeline shows the best results among the importing pathways. The production costs are the lowest for import via pipeline now and in the near future. Import via ship is only cost-efficient in the status quo if waste heat sources are available, but it could be more competitive in the future if more energy and cost-efficient options for regional H2 distribution are available. It is shown that the climate mitigation effect is more cost-effective if the H2 is produced domestically or imported via pipeline. Compared to the import of CO2-based methanol, the analyzed H2 import pathways show a comparable (pipeline) or worse environmental and economic performance (ship).