CRI’s George Olah Renewable Methanol Plant in Svartsengi, near Grindavik, Iceland began production in late 2011 and was completed in 2012.
K-C Tran, CEO of Carbon Recycling International, said at the plant opening: “Building the George Olah Plant establishes the keystone for a fleet of carbon recycling plants in the future.”
The name of the plant honors George Olah, Nobel Prize Laureate in chemistry and co-author of the book Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy. In 2015 CRI expanded the plant from a capacity of 1.3 million litres per year to more than 5 million litres a year. The plant now recycles 5.5 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide a year which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. All energy used in the plant comes from the Icelandic grid, which is generated from hydro and geothermal energy. The plant uses electricity to make hydrogen which is converted into methanol in a catalytic reaction with carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is captured from flue gas released by a geothermal power plant located next to the CRI facility. The origin of the flue gas are geothermal steam emissions.
The production process creates no toxic byproducts as the sole chemical released is oxygen which is created as the plant uses electricity to split water into its constituent chemicals. Renewable methanol from the plant is then sold to the market where it is blended with gasoline and used in the production of biodiesel, in Iceland and abroad.
According to an independent audit by SGS Germany using a protocol established by ISCC, the use of renewable methanol from the plant releases 90% less CO2 than the use of a comparable amount of energy from fossil fuels. The small amount of emissions caused by the production and use of renewable methanol is related to the CO2 released by geothermal power plants which provide about 30% of the energy on the Icelandic grid.