For a successful integration of e-Refinery systems in the incumbent (energy) system, there is a need for understanding the complex interactions across multiple disciplines and scales (from molecules to products), and for actively guiding technology development by implementing feedback loops that allow transferring and evaluating knowledge to make steps in innovation.
Here we look at the materials, the catalyst and the electrochemistry. It is clear that the choice of electrode material, electrolyte and membrane determine to a large extent which product can be obtained from e-refinery systems. The three components are mutually dependent and should be chosen such that an inherently stable operation is obtained. The design of the electrosynthesis process requires in-depth knowledge of the processes involved from the atomic to the micro scale to ultimately enable production processes at large scales.
We use Transport phenomena, Reactor Engineering & Process Intensification, Energy Technology & System Engineering to translate the insights obtained by studying the microscopic-scale processes at work in the e-Refinery system into practical tools to design, engineer and optimise the reactor component and process system design. Establishing general electrochemical engineering design rules, taking into account all materials and components involved, will allow assessing the potential of electrochemical synthesis routes, and allow predicting the effect of transients (in electrical current and material resources) on all aspects of the conversion process.
Here we talk about Process and System Integration and Societal Embedding of e-Refinery systems. A timely assessment of the relevant system constrains, including the use of current assets, matchmaking of supply and demand, evaluation of the environmental impacts, logistics and feedstock availability, can indicate the success of e-Refinery systems. We also need to identify and evaluate the trade-offs between short-term and long-term e-refinery configurations to identify potential hotspots, opportunities for synergies and non-regret options at the system level. And, look at new business models, institutional frameworks and governance tools that speed up and/or support the uptake of the technologies.