Optimal energy system configuration for electro-fuels production in different locations

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Several stakeholders in the maritime sector have expressed their will to reduce the environmental impact of the shipping industry. The main driver of CO2 emissions and local pollution is the type of fuel used in the propulsion engines, so "sustainable" fuels are often proposed as an alternative. Among alternative fuels, this study focuses on electro-fuels synthesized from hydrogen and carbon or hydrogen and nitrogen. The hydrogen is produced via water electrolysis with input electricity from solar PV, wind turbines, or the grid. This paper aims to identify which energy system configurations lead to the lowest electro-fuel production costs and where to focus on technology and cost improvements. The first electro-fuels that have been analyzed and reported here are methanol and ammonia. The fuel production system is modeled at the plant level using a mathematical model specifying the source of the electricity, the electrolysis unit, the CO2 or N2 sources, and the upgrading facility in the form of methanol or ammonia plant. Furthermore, potential supplementary technologies, such as intermediate storage (e.g., batteries or hydrogen tanks) and a desalination plant, are modeled. To determine optimal system operation and configuration, a least-cost optimization of installed capacities, mass fluxes, energy dispatching, storage management, and sale of by-products is performed. Input data includes state-of-the-art costs and technical constraints of the plant and peripheral systems and hourly wind, solar production profiles, and electricity market prices at specific locations. Results show that a connection to the grid reduces the system cost significantly compared to off-grid operation due to reduced storage and oversizing expenses. In the optimal solution, more than 50% of the electricity consumed comes from the grid, which makes the sustainability of the electro-fuel dependent on the specific grid energy mix. The location of the electro-fuel plant also plays a significant role in the fuel production cost. Here, an area with a large solar potential enables lower costs than an area with high wind potential if the fuel plant can also be connected to the electrical grid. The possibility to sell side products (heat, oxygen, or both) can determine the success of a fuel plant business model.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2022
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Event7th World Maritime Technology Conference 2022 - Tivoli Congress Center, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 26 Apr 202228 Apr 2022


Conference7th World Maritime Technology Conference 2022
LocationTivoli Congress Center


  • Ammonia
  • Methanol
  • Hydrogen
  • Flexibility
  • Wind
  • Grid


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