Development of a Sustainable Carbon Carrier For PtX Use: From Namibia to a Global Market

Carbon sourcing for Power-to-X (PtX) products such as synthetic fuels remains a critical factor in terms of end-product sustainability.

Namibia’s Vision 2030 aims for socio-economic development, operationalised through five-year National Development Plans and accelerated by the Harambee Prosperity Plans. The second of these plans highlights the green hydrogen and Power-to-X (PtX) industry as a key growth engine, not just for Namibia but also for the broader Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Namibia is making strides in advancing its green hydrogen sector, resonating with its commitment towards sustainable development as expressed in the Vision 2030. Power-to-X technologies, leveraging Namibian green hydrogen, can provide Namibia highly desired export commodities in the form of renewable drop-in synthetic hydrocarbon fuels.

However, the sourcing of carbon for PtX technologies for the production of synthetic hydrocarbon fuels, remains a critical consideration in terms of the sustainability outlook of the final fuel. There are three primary methods for sourcing carbon:

1. Direct Air Capture (DAC),

2. Biogenic Carbon and

3. Carbon Capture from Fossil Fuel-based Plants.

DAC captures CO2 directly from the atmosphere. Biogenic Carbon usually refers to CO2 captured from biomass. Carbon Capture from Fossil Fuel-based Plants, while enhancing overall resource efficiency, is not a sustainable long-term source of carbon and will not get certified as a renewable feedstock.

In the urgent quest to transition away from fossil fuels and achieve climate neutrality, DAC and Biogenic Carbon present the most viable options. However, DAC technology is not yet commercially available and has high associated costs.

A recent study conducted by the GFA Consulting Group GmbH under the umbrella of the PtX Hub Namibia in collaboration with the GIZ project, Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation (BCBU), sheds light on the three different sourcing methods for carbon.

The study further helps to understand the implications of carbon carrier choices and evaluate the different methods in the Namibian context. It comprehensively assesses the potential of utilising the country’s residue biomass, particularly from bush encroachment, for the production of high-value PtX products, with a specific emphasis on synthetic fuels.

With that it presents a novel approach to developing an innovative biomass PtX (BtX) process that maximises the carbon carrier aspect of biomass and also provides recommendations for the implementation of the BtX process for the production of synthetic drop-in fuels in Namibia.

On 22 November, 2023, PtX Hub Namibia organised a webinar where the findings of the study were discussed in more detail. The webinar can be re-watched HERE.

BUSH BIOMASS

Namibia’s bush biomass holds great potential for the development of carbon carrier for PtX applications. Based on currently available data, it is estimated that the resource can be utilised at a quantum of between 18.7 – 40.6 million tonnes per annum. This range of utilization takes into account the factors that influence bush encroachment, including the availability of resources, the level of aftercare applied, and external factors beyond local level management.

The report recommends a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to integrate torrefied biomass and PtX technologies into Namibia’s energy strategy. Key guidelines include the adoption of a phased roadmap for infrastructure development, focusing initially on the biomass sector and its potential for job creation in rural areas. Concurrent efforts to enhance research, education, and training will support the transition to more technically demanding endeavors linked to synthetic fuels production. Policy and regulatory reforms will facilitate investment in the sector, and the establishment of quality control, certification, and standardization systems will ensure the global competitiveness of Namibia’s biomass products.

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