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Start-up of the Week: Through renewable synthetic fuels, CAPHENIA eyes ‘Green Transportation’

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CAPHENIA's Power and Biogas to Liquid process enables a CO2 reduction of 92%, an industrial record, using wind power

Bayern-based, CAPHENIA has dedicated itself to producing renewable synthetic fuels through its Power-and-Biogas-to-Liquid (PBtL) process, which converts CO2 and biogas into fuel. This process, powered by renewable energy, aims to reduce carbon emissions by providing an eco-friendly alternative for powering existing engines and propulsion systems. In today’s episode of International Finance’s “Start-up of the Week,” we will talk about the venture, which was established in 2018 and has secured over 5 million euro worth of funding to date.

Commercial aviation, shipping and automobile sectors emit over 9,100 million tonnes of CO2 on an annual basis. CAPHENIA’s operational principle is simple here: to play an active hand in reducing CO2 emissions from the concerned industries by offering renewable synthetic fuels at competitive prices.

“CAPHENIA follows nature’s example by making CO2 usable. Using a globally patented power and biogas to liquid (PBtL) process, CAPHENIA converts CO2 and biogas into renewable synthetic fuels. These fuels can power existing engines and engines, so no complex conversions or new infrastructure are required. The electricity required for the conversion process is generated from renewable energies, to whose fluctuating availability the CAPHENIA process can react flexibly,” the venture remarked.

What’s The Vision?

Achieving mobility and environmental protection through the usage of climate-neutral fuels. As per the company, the key lies in the CO2 cycle. If the CO2 required to produce synthetic fuels comes from CO2 recycling, the combustion of the fuels in aircraft and ships will become climate-neutral.

To fulfil its vision of “Climate-Neutral Mobility,” CAPHENIA’s game-changing tool is synthetic fuels that are particularly suitable for aviation and shipping. Since they have an extremely high energy density, they can be used to cover long distances. The fuels also play an important role in agriculture, transport and construction.

“Every year, over 3,900 billion litres of fossil fuels are used for global mobility. This results in emissions of over 9,100 million tons of CO2. In a world focused on sustainability, fossil fuels are being replaced by synthetic fuels, hydrogen and electricity from renewable energies,” the venture remarked further.

CAPHENIA’s synthetic fuels follow the ‘SAS’ formula: sustainable, affordable and scalable. We will talk about it in detail.

Knowing The Technology

At the core of CAPHENIA’s operational ecosystem, we have “Maximum Input Material Utilisation,” a technology where various process stages related to synthetic fuel production are carried out in a unique and patented three-in-one zone reactor. The reactor does not require any catalysts and achieves a selectivity of 100% thanks to the intelligent process design. And since no by-products are produced, there are no material or energy losses.

“The energy efficiency for producing the synthesis gas is 86%. If the synthesis gas is reused in Fischer-Tropsch fuel synthesis, an efficiency of 72% sets a new industry benchmark. In comparison, the classic power-to-liquid process achieves an efficiency of 40%. CAPHENIA’s Power and Biogas to Liquid process enables a CO2 reduction of 92%, an industrial record, using wind power,” the venture stated further.

Talking about the “CAPHENIA 3-in-1 Zone Reactor,” the mechanism has four working stages (or zones). Let’s start with the “Plasma Zone,” where at temperatures of around 2000°C, methane (CH4) is broken down into a carbon aerosol (C) and hydrogen (H2). Then comes the “Boudouard Zone,” where the carbon aerosol (C) gets combined with carbon dioxide (CO2) and converted to carbon monoxide (CO). The conversion is based on the well-known Boudouard reaction, which takes place at temperatures of around 1000°C. In this reaction, the high thermal energy of the gas from the plasma zone is used to the maximum and converted into chemical binding energy.

Next is the “HetWGS Zone” or the “Heterogeneous Water Gas Shift Zone,” where the remaining carbon aerosols (C) react with added water vapour (H2O) to form carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2). The composition of the synthesis gas (CO + H2) can be flexibly controlled. The final stage is a process named “Synthesis Gas Converter,” which is also the starting material for a variety of CAPHENIA’s products.

“Synthetic fuels are not only climate-friendly, but also have a much higher degree of purity than fossil fuels. This means that their combustion produces significantly less sulphur dioxide and particulate matter,” the start-up continued further.

Conventional processes require many reactors and many units to produce synthesis gas. CAPHENIA zone reactor simplifies the whole process and makes it faster and more cost-effective, by using significantly less electricity. CAPHENIA can produce synthetic fuels quickly in large quantities thanks to its scalable reactor design. CAPHENIA uses biogas, CO2, water and electricity to produce synthesis gas, which serves as an intermediate product from which synthetic fuels or other chemical products can be manufactured.

In synthesis gas production, the CAPHENIA process achieves a record efficiency of 86%. The Synthetic fuels produced from the CAPHENIA’s operational ecosystem have a CO2 reduction of up to 92% compared to fossil fuels. This means that the CAPHENIA process comes closer to CO2 neutrality than any other fuel production route.

Solutions For Transportation Sector

Due to its energy efficiency, the railway has emerged as the climate-friendly mode of transport par excellence. However, CAPHENIA sees the sector to be even more environmentally friendly and attractive, by saying goodbye to fossil diesel.

While battery and hydrogen trains are merging as possible climate-friendly alternatives, purchasing them may not always be economical or sustainable for the operators. In freight and heavy goods transport, the performance of classic combustion engines cannot be dispensed with at all for the time being.

Therefore, climate-friendly alternatives to diesel operation are necessary. One of these alternatives is the renewable fuel HVO diesel (hydro-treated vegetable oil). Operating with HVO significantly reduces CO2 emissions and enables combustion engines to be operated in a climate-friendly manner without having to make extensive conversions. HVO has already established itself as one of the important bridging technologies in rail transport (Climate Diesel). Since its use, it has led to a saving of around 90% in CO2 emissions compared to fossil fuels and is therefore an important step towards sustainable mobility.

However, since HVO is made exclusively from used cooking oils and high-quality organic oils, it becomes difficult to obtain sufficient quantities of raw materials. CAPHENIA is offering a sustainable complement to HVO diesel by relying on CO2 recycling and biogas as raw materials, making the production volume of the start-up’s products like Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) infinitely scalable. This solution is also coming in handy for the aviation industry, a sector which is currently facing the steep challenge of replacing large quantities of fossil fuels in a record quick time.

“The inevitable byproduct of SAF production is renewable diesel, which can be used as a climate-friendly alternative in rail transport, thus enabling maximum and immediate CO2 savings by using existing infrastructure,” the venture stated further.

Remaining committed to innovation and sustainability, CAPHENIA will build a pilot plant for the production of renewable fuels using the power and biogas-to-liquid process (PBtL) in Germany’s Höchst industrial park in the coming days. The chemical park offers an excellent infrastructure and supply of biogas and green electricity.

CAPHENIA’s PBtL technology has already impressed in research and achieved a record efficiency of 86% in synthesis gas production. The pilot plant will show that the PBtL process is also efficient and economically viable in practice.

“Due to its proximity to Frankfurt Airport and the local demand for SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel), our pilot plant will also play an important role in meeting this demand and thus make a valuable contribution to CO2 neutrality in air transport,” the start-up observed.

CAPHENIA In News

On June 28, 2024, CAPHENIA and German airline Condor reached an agreement on the future purchase of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). As a partner, Condor will support the further development of the process to market maturity and at the same time, has secured access to agreed purchase quantities as soon as production begins on an industrial scale, which will likely happen in 2027.

Continuing the momentum, CAPHENIA signed a letter of intent with the USA-based Emerging Fuels Technology, to integrate each other’s technologies for the production of SAF and renewable diesel. This collaboration combines CAPHENIA’s leading Plasma Boudouard Reactor (PBR) technology with EFT’s Fischer-Tropsch Technology Platform to significantly improve the efficiency and scalability of SAF production. The letter of intent also provides for CAPHENIA to acquire license rights to combine its syngas technology with EFT’s Technology Platform for multiple projects.

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