Decarbonization of copper production by optimal demand response and Power-to-Hydrogen

  • Dekarbonisierung der Kupferproduktion durch optimales Lastmanagement und Power-to-Hydrogen

Röben, Fritz Thomas Carl; Bardow, André (Thesis advisor); von der Aßen, Niklas Vincenz (Thesis advisor); Reuter, Markus Andreas (Thesis advisor)

1. Auflage. - Aachen : Mainz Verlag (2022)
Book, Dissertation / PhD Thesis

In: Aachener Beiträge zur technischen Thermodynamik 37
Page(s)/Article-Nr.: 1 Online-Ressource : Illustrationen, Diagramme

Dissertation, RWTH Aachen University, 2022


To avoid greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate climate change, low-carbon technologies must be used to provide renewable energy and replace fossil fuels. However, this system transition is very material-intensive and leads to high demand for critical materials. Copper is such a material that is essential for electrical applications and many low-carbon technologies. The production of copper itself is an energy-intensive process. Thus, two challenges arise that are addressed in this thesis: the flexible process operation in a fluctuating renewable energy system and the avoidance of process-based GHG emissions. The flexible operation of electricity-intensive processes can support the power grid and provide economic benefits. Demand response (DR) describes operational adjustments based on an economic incentive, such as fluctuating electricity prices. Our initial analysis shows a large DR potential of two electricity-intensive process steps in copper production. To consider the DR potential of the entire production process and to capture the dependencies of the many process steps, we formulate a detailed scheduling model of a representative copper production process. The developed mixed-integer linear program (MILP) allows minimizing the electricity costs without reducing the production volume. This process-wide scheduling enables significant DR potential, reducing annual electricity costs by up to \SI{14.2}{\percent} and shifting large parts of the electricity demand. Avoiding process-based GHG emissions is challenging because fossil fuels are hard to substitute in some processes. These processes use fossil fuels as high-temperature process heat and as chemical reducing agents. A promising alternative for these use cases is hydrogen (H$_2$), when H$_2$ is produced from renewable electricity using water electrolysis (Power-to-H$_2$). The oxygen produced as a by-product offers further benefits as it can be utilized in copper production. To optimally design a power-to-H$_2$ system, we formulate a MILP that minimizes the total annualized cost. The resulting CO$_2$ abatement costs are \SI{201}{EUR/t}~CO$_2$-eq, which exceeds the current prices of EU allowances. However, a sensitivity analysis shows great potential through further development of water electrolysis. Decarbonization through Power-to-H$_2$ offers additional DR potential. Our scheduling model of the decarbonized copper production shows that DR strongly contributes to low CO$_2$ abatement costs. Consequently, this work identifies the potential of decarbonized copper production that provides a critical material for low-carbon technologies and supports the power grid through DR.


  • Chair and Institute of Technical Thermodynamics [412110]