Finland’s Soletair demo plant uses CO2 to produce renewable fuel

The Soletair demo plant, jointly developed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), has produced renewable fuels and chemicals from carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from the air.

Designed to demonstrate the technical performance of the overall process, starting from solar power generation to hydrocarbon production, the latest initiative has seen the production of 200l of fuels and other hydrocarbons for research purposes.

The plant features four different units including a solar power plant, equipment for separating CO2 and water from the air, a section that uses electrolysis to produce hydrogen, and synthesis equipment for producing a crude-oil substitute from carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

According to LUT, this project is part of a research funded by Tekes and various other companies. Both VTT and LUT have also invested €1m each in the project.

LUT professor Jero Ahola said: “The concept we are exploring is an example of how the chemical industry could be electrified in the future.

“The burning of fossil fuels must end by 2050, but people will continue to need some hydrocarbons.”

As part of the initiative, pilot-scale plant units have also been designed for distributed, small-scale production. Production capacity can be increased by including additional units.

One of the pilot plants of the project is situated along with LUT's solar power plant in Lappeenranta, Finland.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finlandprincipal scientist and project coordinator Pekka Simell said: “The result will be multi-sectoral industrial integration. Finnish industry's expertise in this area is being reinforced by collaboration.”

Both VTT and LUT are also planning to test the Soletair demo plant within this year.

Following the completion of the piloting phase, synthesis units will be used in a number of European Union (EU) projects over the coming years.

Image: New research sees the production of renewable fuel from carbon dioxide. Photo: courtesy of Lappeenranta University of Technology LUT.