Dulce Muñoz, technical coordinator of the CATCO2NVERS project speaks in this interview about their main role as well as the main challenges.

How is CATCO2NVERS managing the thermocatalytic conversion of CO2 to FDME, CCFAMEs, and Bio-MeOH?

In CATCO2NVERS three independent technologies will be developed and demonstrated for the use and valorization of CO2. CSIC will use CO2 to convert Furfural into Furfural Dimethyl Ester (FDME), a useful building block in the synthesis of biopolymers. The synthesis of this intermediate will be carried out in two consecutive steps using both O2 and CO2 as reagents. For each stage, different gas pressures and temperatures will be required, thereby adjusting the reactor to the necessary conditions in each stage. In a similar approach, FUNDITEC will face the development of a novel technology that allows the use of CO2 as a reagent in the synthesis of cyclic carbonates, also a useful building block in the synthesis of biopolymers. The synthesis of these cyclic carbonates will be carried out in a one-pot two-steps process where O2 and CO2 will be used to carry out first an oxidation reaction followed by a carbonation step without the need to isolate the epoxide intermediate. The conditions for the overall process (P, T, etc…) will be studied and optimised during the present project.

A third technology will be developed by CARTIF for the thermocatalytic conversion of the CO2 emitted at IMECAL process into bio-methanol. The technology is based on the development of a new multimetallic catalyst over aluminium micro fibrous network structure/hydrotalcite adsorbent without noble metals at low pressure to increase the conversion rate of CO2 to MeOH.

What are the main challenges?

Several important challenges can be mentioned for the above-described technologies. The first one is to achieve the synthesis of both FDME and cyclic carbonates in a one-pot two-step process. The synthesis of FDME compound is reported in at least three different steps and none of them involves the use of CO2 as a reagent. Another challenge of the synthesis of these two building blocks is to ensure that the process runs without isolating or purifying the intermediates that will be formed in the first oxidation reaction and finally ensuring that the two reactions take place in the same solvent and that a single catalyst activates the two processes, which would imply not having to change neither catalyst nor solvent during the whole process. For the conversion of CO2 to methanol, the important challenge using the novel catalysts is to achieve it in conversions and selectivities of the same order or slightly higher than those obtained with commercial catalysts, operating in this case at low pressure (≤ 1MPa).

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