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Solar methanol energy storage

An Author Correction to this article was published on 24 December 2021

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The intermittency of renewable electricity requires the deployment of energy-storage technologies as global energy grids become more sustainably sourced. Upcycling carbon dioxide (CO2) and intermittently generated renewable hydrogen to stored products such as methanol (MeOH) allows the cyclic use of carbon and addresses the challenges of storage energy density, size and transportability as well as responsiveness to energy production and demand better than most storage alternatives. Deploying this storage solution efficiently and at scale requires the optimization of production conditions to ensure predictable and maximum long-term process performance. Key to enabling this solution is the generation of highly productive syngas that is rich in carbon monoxide (CO) via reverse water-gas shift (RWGS) or solid-oxide electrolysis cell technologies. The focus herein is the RWGS reaction as it enables a solar-to-fuel efficiency of around 10% that can be deployable at a commercial scale. The need for a higher-efficiency route to renewable MeOH is discussed, and a comparative technoeconomic analysis of two solar-derived MeOH (solar MeOH) strategies is presented: the solar-CO-rich (based on the solar-RWGS process) and the solar-direct-CO2 routes.

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Fig. 1: Key metrics and figures for RWGS technology incorporation.
Fig. 2: MeOH energy-storage scheme and performance.

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Thank you to X. Peng and C. T. Maravelias for the referenced TEA analysis. Thank you to K. Raina for proofreading the manuscript. We thank J. Fryer for the art concept for the graphical abstract and Fig. 2a. All authors thank J. Tjong of Ford Motor Canada for financial support. G.A.O. acknowledges the financial support of the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI), the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure (MEDI), the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s (MOECC) Best in Science (BIS) Award, Ontario Centre of Excellence Solutions 2030 Challenge Fund, Ministry of Research Innovation and Science (MRIS) Low Carbon Innovation Fund (LCIF), Imperial Oil, the University of Toronto’s Connaught Innovation Fund (CIF), Connaught Global Challenge (CGC) Fund and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

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A.A.T. conceived the analysis and wrote the Perspective. G.A.O. and M.M.S. provided critical guidance and advice.

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Correspondence to Geoffrey A. Ozin.

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Tountas, A.A., Ozin, G.A. & Sain, M.M. Solar methanol energy storage. Nat Catal 4, 934–942 (2021).

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