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World's first iron fuel plant by RIFT will decarbonize industry

Written by Innovation Origins

Written by Innovation Origins

Anyone who thinks of the energy transition quickly thinks of electricity and hydrogen. But Renewable Iron Fuel Technology (RIFT), which grew out of student team SOLID at Eindhoven University of Technology, is convinced that iron fuel is also indispensable for a sustainable future. The circular fuel the company produces is an ideal alternative to gas for industry. CEO Mark Verhagen talks about how the company is doing.


How does it work?

RIFT's system works as follows: iron powder is burned in a boiler. This releases a lot of heat, for example for heat networks. What remains is rust powder. With hydrogen you can convert that back to iron powder, thus 'charging' the powder and creating a circular fuel.


How efficient is using iron powder compared to, say, hydrogen?

"One of the characteristics of iron powder is that you can easily store and transport it. Whereas hydrogen loses efficiency during transport, this is hardly the case with iron powder. However, our technique does lose some more efficiency during the production of the iron fuel. But in the end you end up with a relatively high efficiency of 65 to 81 percent."

Why does the world need iron fuel?

Industry accounts for 52 percent of total CO2 emissions.

"There is still a reliance on fossil fuels, but it is time to decarbonize. Right now there are two alternatives to make that possible: hydrogen combustion and electrification. However, the hydrogen network is not adequate and electrification cannot meet the needs of large companies at any given time. Actually, therefore, a large part of the puzzle remains unfilled. Iron fuel is an ideal solution. Because you can easily apply that technology to any location."

What stage is RIFT currently in?

"We are in the 'proof of concept' phase. We now have two plants running: Our production plant at the Energy Demo Field in Arnhem and our combustion plant in Helmond at Ennatuurlijk. Right now we are collecting test results and if all goes according to plan, we will be able to share them with the general public in November."


What has been your biggest milestone so far?

"In Helmond and Arnhem there are now the world's first systems that can prove the technology in its entirety. I am enormously proud that we have managed to do that with the team and our partners. The first test results also look good. That shows that the key elements are working. That's also a milestone, because based on that we can start moving forward with investors."


What remains to be done before you can commercialize the technology?

"We are going to further optimize the technology. For example, we need to ensure that the system runs well and achieves the highest possible energy efficiency. The system must also be reliable for long-term use. Once we have that in place, then we will start thinking about the fine print. We have to make sure that our system complies with all the laws and regulations."

"And in addition to optimizing our system, we face another big challenge. Namely, we are looking to strengthen our team. There are 16 of us now and we want to scale up to 20."


What is your dream for the future?

"Ultimately, our goal is to save a gigaton of CO2 per year by 2050. I hope that we will then make a major contribution to the global energy supply."

Gas, oil and coal will then be a thing of the past and electricity, hydrogen also iron powder will be part of the energy supply of the future


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