Synhelion and Wood partner to accelerate market entry of solar fuels

Swiss solar fuel pioneer Synhelion has entered into a partnership with Wood, a global leader in consulting and engineering across energy and the built environment to rapidly bring solar-based synthetic fuels to market. The two companies are drawing on their strengths – Synhelion’s innovative solar technology and Wood’s industrially established chemical process technology for syngas generation.

Synhelion has developed a trailblazing solar thermal process for the production of synthetic fuels. The process of the ETH Zurich spin-off is based on a technology to efficiently convert concentrated sunlight into process heat. In 2019, Synhelion produced the first-ever solar fuel from air and sunlight under real field conditions.

Since then, Synhelion has scaled up the individual components of this technology to industrial size and developed further processes for the production of synthetic fuels. The partnership with Wood will bring together Synhelion’s solar technologies with Wood’s own novel hydrogen reforming reactor technologies further accelerating the path to market maturity.

Synthetic fuels are seen as the most promising solution for an efficient reduction of CO₂ emissions, especially for aviation and long-distance transport. They meet the high requirements of these modes of transport in terms of energy density and can replace fossil fuels without infrastructural adjustments. The market entry of Synhelion’s climate-friendly solar fuels is planned for 2023.

Specific plans

In 2021, Synhelion and Wood will jointly design, build, install and commission a complete system on the solar tower at the Jülich site of the German Aerospace Center. This plant will demonstrate the production of syngas – a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide – on an industrial scale. The syngas can then be refined into liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel, or kerosene using established industrial processes. The plant will also be used to produce solar thermal hydrogen.

Dr. Gianluca Ambrosetti, CEO of Synhelion, commented: “Thanks to the partnership with Wood, we can benefit from a wealth of experience that will massively accelerate our path to market. With our solar fuels, we want to effectively contribute to reducing CO₂ emissions from transportation. As a young company, it is a great honor for us that, in addition to our partners Eni, CEMEX, Lufthansa Group, and Zurich Airport, we can now also count on the support of the leading engineering company Wood.”

Wood’s Brian McCarthy, Vice President of Technology and Products said: “Wood is extremely excited to be working in partnership with Synhelion. Combining the technologies of Wood and Synhelion enables a viable path for affordable and scalable syngas production. We’re looking forward to designing, building and commissioning the complete system in Jülich.”