The methanol production unit is heavily influenced by external factors such as the intensity of the sun, proximity of clouds and air humidity. The control unit processes all data from subsystems and then sends signals to the actuators in order to control the whole process.
All of the “pipingwork” of the chemical process will be simplified based on a novel system/component. Its main function is to transfer fluids from one unit-process to another, and transfer heat to other fluids or to the surroundings (cooling). It is the component that connects all unit processes and therefore forms the “backbone” of the plant.
One of the major challenges of the methanol production system is reaching a sufficient methanol quality: methanol grade AA. Using a conventional distillation column would have a negative effect on the energy balance and investment cost of the system. Therefore the principle of a heatpipe is used in order to do on plate distillation.
Several subsystems contain fluid handling machinery: Pumps, compressors, valves etc. These components require special care, as they probably will not be available on the scale of the plant, without modification. These components must be designed for: high efficiency, long lifetime, corrosion/fouling resistance, low cost manufacturing. Each part in the system has different demands when it comes to pressure, composition & temperature.
Team ZEF has decided to create a challenge: Design and build a system that can produce >100 g zero emission methanol per day using energy from the sun (300 W PV-system) and CO2 and water directly from air before the 1st of January 2018.