Title: Sustainability assessment of the CO2 methanation value chain : environmental impacts and socio-economic drivers and barriers
Authors : Carabias-Hütter, Vicente
Wettstein, Sarah
Stucki, Matthias
Lopez de Obeso, Luis
Lobsiger-Kägi, Evelyn
Schneider, Gabriel
Baier, Jens
Burri, Adrian
Zipper, Christian
Extent : 16
Publisher / Ed. Institution : ZHAW Zürcher Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften
Publisher / Ed. Institution: Winterthur
Issue Date: 31-Jan-2018
License (according to publishing contract) : Not specified
Language : English
Subjects : Methanation; Power-to-gas; Sustainability assessment
Subject (DDC) : 338.927: Environmental economics and sustainable development
Abstract: Within this project the sustainability assessment of the CO2 methanation value chain was performed by analyzing the following four technologies: catalytic methanation, hydrogen production with Photo-Electrochemical Cells (PEC), Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells, and Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC). Energy efficiency with respect to resource and climate conservation is one of the most challenging and urgent problems of our time. But as large and important as these targets are, they will not be adopted by the public as long as they are not cost-effective, lifestyle-compatible and environmentally friendly throughout the value chain. That is why we opted to evaluate new approaches for generating electricity along the CO2 methanation value chain with reference to all these perspectives, and to consider their results not only in public policymaking, but also for strategic decisions in companies. The goal of this research project was to assess the whole CO2 methanation value chain regarding social, economic and environmental sustainability by comparing various scenarios from cradle to grave. The results for the environmental sustainability depend substantially on the type of electricity used for the hydrogen production. The researchers identified a significant potential to reduce life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, when comparing renewable and fossil methane value chains. The reason for this reduction potential is the fact that the combustion of fossil methane releases carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming whereas the direct carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of synthetic methane are equal to the carbon dioxide amount used as input in the methanation process and therefore are climate neutral. The economic investigation dealt with the calculation of the possible investment and operating costs in comparison to the currently found base scenario. In summary, it can be said that there are ways to break away from the dependency of fossil natural gas to produce self-sufficient renewable methane within Switzerland. With improvements in efficiencies, increased transit and operating times, the use of energy flows below process steps, and increased maintenance intervals, especially new technologies, there are many ways to minimize the cost difference. More accurate statements require more thorough detailed investigations. On the social dimension, it can be said that the processes involved in the subprojects are not of more concern than normal Swiss industrial activities. However, attention must be paid at the provenance of bulk materials, especially of metals (copper) and conflict minerals, cassiterite (tin), wolframite (for tungsten), coltan (for tantalum), and gold ore. For the assessed subprojects the critical materials are usually the catalysts (nickel or metals of the platinum group). It was discovered that the supply chains are usually untraceable, making it impossible to trace the exact provenance location and their respective social conditions. A strategy to fight this issue is for the Swiss companies to demand more transparency for the purchased bulk materials. The findings of this research project revealed the social, economic and environmental hotspots of the whole CO2 methanation value chain, which can be used by the researchers in the single subprojects and later by the implementing industry to improve the sustainability of their endproducts. The findings and recommendations of this research project are important for decision making in policy with regard to the energy strategy 2050 and for industries to improve their sustainability performances, e.g. by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Further description : Final scientific report
Departement: Life Sciences und Facility Management
School of Engineering
Organisational Unit: Institute of Sustainable Development (INE)
Institute of Natural Resource Sciences (IUNR)
Publication type: Working Paper – Expertise – Study
URI: https://digitalcollection.zhaw.ch/handle/11475/8989
Published as part of the ZHAW project : Sustainability assessment of the CO2 methanation value chain: environmental impacts and socio-economic drivers and barriers
Appears in Collections:Publikationen Life Sciences und Facility Management

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