Research & Development

NextChem participates at a number of research projects, with a role of coordinator or a role of partner. Some of them are EU funded, some others have been nationally funded.



PROMETEO (Hydrogen production by means of solar heat and power in high temperature solid oxide electrolysers) project, funded within the frame of the European Union’s Horizon 2020, aims at producing hydrogen from renewable heat & power sources by high temperature electrolysis in areas of low electricity prices associated to photovoltaic or wind.

Solid Oxide Electrolysis (SOE) is a highly efficient technology to convert heat & power into hydrogen from water. However, the heat may not be available for the operation of the SOE when inexpensive power is offered (e.g. off-grid peak, photovoltaics or wind). Thus, the challenge is to optimize the coupling of the SOE with two intermittent sources: non- programmable renewable electricity and high temperature solar heat from Concentrating Solar (CS) systems with Thermal Energy Storage (TES) to supply solar heat when power is made available.

The 9 partners of the Consortium created around the project (covers the entire value-chain and play key roles in the partnership: from developers and research organizations, to the electrolyzer supplier, system integrator/engineering and end-users. Partners are: ENEA, which is also the coordinator of the project, Capital Energy, Fondazione Bruno Kessler, SolidPower, Fundacion IMDEA Energía, SNAM, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Stamicarbon and NextChem.

A fully-equipped modular prototype with at least 25 kWe SOE (about 15 kg/day hydrogen production) and TES (for 24 hours operation) will be designed, built, connected to representative external power/heat sources and validated in real context. Particular attention will be given to partial load operation, transients and hot stand-by periods.

Industrial end-users will lead techno-economic and sustainability studies to apply the technology in on-grid and off-grid scenarios and for different end-uses: utility for grid balancing, power-to-gas, and hydrogen as feedstock for the fertilizer and chemical industry. NextChem, inside the partnership, is in charge for the system integration and prototyping through the design and construction of the pilot unit.



INITIATE - Innovative industrial transformation of the steel and chemical industries of Europe is an Horizon 2020 funded project (Ref: 958318), including major steel, urea and energy transition industrial players (Arcelor Mittal, SSAB, Stamicarbon, NextChem), functional material suppliers (Johnson Matthey, Kisuma Chemicals), multi-disciplinary researchers (TNO, SWERIM, POLIMI, Radboud University) and experienced promoters of CCUS, circularity and symbiosis topics to public (CO2 Value Europe). The key objectives of the INITIATE project are the reduction of waste and GHG emissions from industrial processes, as well as the reduction of energy and raw material intensity, increasing energy efficiency. INITIATE proposes a novel symbiotic process to produce urea from steel residual gases. The project will demonstrate a reduction in primary energy intensity of 30%, carbon footprint of 95%, the raw material intensity of 40%; and waste production of 90%.

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DEMETO (Modular, scalable and high-performance DE-polymerization by MicrowavE TechnolOgy) project, funded within the frame of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, aims to enable chemical de-polymerization of PET at industrial scale thanks to its microwave-based process intensification of the alkaline hydrolysis reaction. The process at the base of DEMETO technology allows to recovery and recycle the monomers, closing PET life-cycle through a circular economy value chain, reducing plastics market dependency from natural resources and improving drastically the environmental footprint of PET production. 
The 14 partners of the project (3V Tech, ACTOR Technical University of Denmark, The European Outdoor Group, EuPC, The Fricke and Mallah GmbH, GR3N, H&M Nennes & Mauritz AB, NEOGROUP, NextChem, RECUPRENDA, PETCIA, SUPSI, Synesis) cover the entire PET value chain, from mechanical recyclers to PET final users; they are from all over Europe and share the common vision that DEMETO will help to create a more sustainable world. NextChem is mainly involved in the design and construction of a demonstration unit able to treat 1.5 ton/day of PET flakes coming from mechanical recycling and to produce the monomers with a very high purity level such to be re-introduced in the production of new “virgin” PET.
The demo plant has been built in 2021.

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MEWLIFE (MicroalgaE biomass from phototrophic-heterotrophic cultivation using olive oil Wastewater) is a project funded by the European Union LIFE Programme and developed by six partners, NextChem, project coordinator, BIO-P (NextChem’s subsidiary innovative start-up), HTR, Labor, Megara Resins, Technosind. It aims to demonstrate the environmental benefit and economic feasibility of an innovative approach to produce microalgal biomass in an integrated phototrophic-heterotrophic cultivation system.

The proposed system uses preconcentrated (in a membrane filtration plant) olive oil wastewaters as carbon source for growing algae, thus contributing to waste reuse and valorization. Wastewaters from olive oil production plants cannot be treated in conventional biological waste water plants due to the toxic effect of antioxidants on active sludge. As results, these wastewaters are discharged in the environment acting as phytotoxic agents.

The MEWLIFE project aims to overcome these hurdles with the validation at pilot scale of an integrated set of technologies for olive oil wastewaters remediation based on physical and biological treatments. The microalgal biomass produced will be tested for application in nutraceuticals (by extracting carotenoids) and for bio-polymer production (by extracting starch and other carbohydrates and the lipid fraction).



HIFLEX (High Storage density solar power plant for flexible energy system) is an Horizon 2020 funded project coordinated by NextChem and KT-Kinetics Technology, bringing together a number of leading industry partners and a research institutes coming from CSP industry, storage and material science: Barilla, DLR, CMI, SUGIMAT, HelioHeat GmbH, Tekfen, IndygoTech Minerals SA, Dürmeier and Quantis.

The aim of the project is to demonstrate a complete pre-commercial flexible CSP (Concentrated Solar Plant) using as heat transfer and storage medium, solid ceramic particles that are stable up to 1000°C. This innovative technology has several advantages compared to state-of-the-art CSP technology. The large temperature range of the particles leads to very high storage densities and low storage cost, enabling dispatchable power supply with a high-efficiency CSP system. In addition, particle technology results in a significant reduction in investment cost.

During the HIFLEX project the worldwide first complete pre-commercial will bedesigned, built and demonstrated within the Barilla industrial facility. Solar energy, collected from such plant, will be available as thermal energy to be used for production of pasta.

The leading participation of these industry partners will entail a direct transfer of the results obtained during the HIFLEX project into new commercial CSP plants.

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DECADE (DistributEd Chemicals And fuels production from CO2 in photoelectrocatalytic Devices) is a project funded by European Union in the framework of the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.

DECADE project proposes a new photoelectrocatalytic (PEC) approach for the conversion of CO2 avoiding water oxidation as anodic reaction, to overcome the current limits in PEC system and to maximize effective energy utilization. Novel PEC technology will be developed up to TRL 5 (prototype testing under environmental relevant conditions) using alcohols and waste CO2 as feed. Different applications are investigated: green refinery, distributed green solvent production and use to lower carbon footprint in methanol plant. In the main application, bioethanol and waste CO2 are used to produce a mixture of ethyl acetate (EA) and ethyl formate (EF) in ethanol, to be used as drop-in green solvent or as octane booster fuel component. The net impact is to produce valuable added-value products through an energy-efficient PEC device, to lower the carbon footprint by using waste CO2 and introducing renewable energy in the production chain.

NextChem is involved in the development of the technical-economic feasibility model to check the economic feasibility of the proposed DECADE technology under different scenarios, by estimating CAPEX and OPEX up to final cost of production (COP) of target products.

The project consortium comprises 14 European partners: European Research Institute of Catalysis A.I.S.B.L. (ERIC, as Coordinator), Consorzio Interuniversitario per la Scienza e Tecnologia dei Materiali, Fundacio Privada Institut Catala D’Investigacio Química, MAX-PLANCK-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung Der Wissenschaften EV, Asociacion Centro de Investigacion Cooperativa en Biomateriales - CICbiomagune, Forschungszentrum Jülich GMBH, NEXTCHEM SpA, HYSYTECH SRL, EKODENGE Muhendislik Mimarlik Danismanlik Ticaret Anonim Sirketi, UNISMART Padova Enterprise Srl, Motor Oil Hellas Diilistiria Korinthou AE, MERIT Consulting House, FILA Industria Chimica SpA, CASALE SA, and 1 international partner: the University of Tokyo.

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Bizeolcat (Bifunctional zeolite based catalysts and innovative process for sustainable hydrocarbon transformation) is an Horizon 2020 funded project comprising 14 partners between technology centres, research institutes, Universities, Standardization body and industry: fundacio EURECAT, project coordinator, NextChem, Universitetet I Oslo, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Sintef AS, Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique – CNRS, Kemijski Institut, Turkiye Petrol Rafinerileri Anonim Sirketi, Perstorp AB, Strane Innovation SAS, European Research Institute Of Catalysis, A.I.S.B.L., Asociacion Española De Normalizacion, CEPSA.

BIZEOLCAT addresses the need for lowering the carbon footprint of refining industry, contributing to an evolving scenario of sustainable economy in such field. The main objective is to obtain light olefins and aromatics using light hydrocarbons (C1, C3 and C4) that means upbringing the use of light alkanes as raw material for specialty chemical industry and not as feedstock for fuels in the current oil refining process. This target will be reached by implementing new procedures, involving innovative catalysts synthesis methodologies and novel reactor design and processing, demonstrating their improvement in sustainability and economic scalability in existing industrial processes.

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PEGASUS (Renewable Power generation by solar Particle Receiver Driven Sulphur Storage Cycle) is a project funded by European Union in the framework of Horizon 2020 Programme, developed by 5 partners: DLR, project coordinator, NextChem, APTL/CERTH, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), and BrightSource (BRS).

The scope is to investigate a novel power cycle for renewable electricity production combining a solar centrifugal particle receiver with a sulphur storage system for baseload operation. The proposed technology combines the use of solid particles as heat transfer fluid (proppant) and catalyst medium in the framework of a thermochemical cycle, allowing to store solar energy in the form of solid Sulphur. Such architecture accounts for a long-time energy storage system as well for a continuous renewable electricity production.

Chemo-enzymatic processes incite


INCITE – INnovative Chemoenzymatic InTEgrated processes - fosters competitiveness of the European green chemistry industry.

INCITE aims to prove at an industrial scale that chemo-enzymatic processes have clear environmental gains, are cost-effective and can contribute to increase safety in the work environment. The project will base its demonstration on two chemo-enzymatic processes using hydrolases, to build two novel demonstration plants in real industrial settings, one being the esterase-catalyzed of an important precursor in the production of insecticides, and the other being the solvent-free synthesis of oleochemical esters using lipase enzymes. The target products include commodities and fine chiral chemicals for crop protection, agro-chemicals, public health, feed/food or cosmetics.  In INCITE project BIO-P has a role of Engineering from basic to plant construction.



STREAM (Sistema di Trattamento reflui con Recupero di Energia, Acqua e Materia) is funded by Italian Ministry of Economic Development in the framework of Programma Operativo Nazionale (PON) “Imprese e Competitività” 2014-2020 and developed by 2 partners: NextChem and Quality Engineering, with the cooperation of University of L’Aquila. It is focused on the development of a technology for wastewater treatment and offers the opportunity to purify very contaminated wastewater, recovering materials of interest and recovering demineralized water to be re-used in the productive process, using low value waste energy. The technology at the base of the project involves the use of thermal processes for wastewater concentration and of refining step for water reuse, with the objective to reach a ZLD system. The aim of the project is to develop a multipurpose treatment technology, adaptable to a wide variety of wastewaters. 

The treatment package that is to be developed can operate the separation and recovery of materials present in an industrial waste of any nature. The reuse and enhancement of the recovered material can take place directly within the company re-entering it into the production cycle or selling it on the market. The prototype will be installed in the KT facilities in Chieti and will be operated in 2019. It will be tested on a wide variety of wastewaters, coming from industries of different types.



RECENT (Electrocatalytic reduction of CO2 through nano-structured electrodes) project falls under the European Program KETs and is co-financed by the Lazio region (CUP:F81B18000450007). The project aims to the simultaneous development of a system for the storage of surplus electric energy coming from renewable and/or traditional sources into chemicals and a system to reduce CO2 emission from combustion plants and/or biogas plants. 

This is accomplished through an electrochemical process that allows the conversion of electrical energy into chemical energy, leading to the production of synthesis gas from carbon dioxide by using nanostructured catalytic electrodes. The aim of the project is to design, built and testing two prototypes: the first one for the synthesis of nanostructured electrodes and the second one for the electrochemical CO2 reduction. By this way, the catalysts produced in the former prototype will be used for the electrochemical reduction of CO2 in the latter one. An industrial scale case study will be selected and deeply analyzed from technical and economical point of view in order to investigate the potential market application.  

The proposed technology answers the requirements of green economy by applying the principles of the circular economy as well as sharing of renewable energy. 

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BOFUREA (Basic Oxygen Furnace Gas to UREA) project, funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands, aims to contribute towards the reduction of carbon footprint in integrated steel plants through the valorization of the off gas coming from basic oxygen furnace gas, otherwise burned off. By applying the concept of circular economy, the project aims to develop a cost-effective process for converting Basic Oxygen Furnace gas (BOF gas) into valuables chemicals like urea or Ad-blue solution products while simultaneously delivering storage ready CO2 at no extra costs. The proposed concept accounts for a carbon footprint reduction within the steel industry thus accelerating the energy transition. The main goal is to form a lasting value chain to enable the industrial implementation in a timeframe of 5 years. 

Partnership includes ECN part of TNO as Coordinator, Arcelor Mittal, Stamicarbon, NextChem, Radboud University, Kisuma and OCI Nitrogen.



PyroCO2 project (PyroCO2) will demonstrate the scalability and economic viability of carbon capture and utilization (CCU) to make climate positive acetone out of industrial CO2 and renewable electricity derived hydrogen. Core of the technology is an energy-efficient thermophilic microbial bioprocess that is projected towards a reduction of 17 Mt CO2eq by 2050. The acetone produced by the PyroCO2 process will be demonstrated as an ideal platform for the catalytic synthesis of a range of chemicals, synthetic fuels, and recyclable polymer materials from CO2, generating a portfolio of viable business cases and pre-developed processes for replication and commercialization. The PyroCO2 demonstrator plant will be able to produce at least 4,000 tons acetone annually from 9,100 tons of industrial CO2 and green hydrogen. It will be located at the industrial cluster of Heroya Industrial Park in southern Norway, a strategic placement that guarantees access to CO2 feedstock and green energy at a competitive price and connects several carbon-intensive industries with chemical production through industrial symbiosis. From here, the PyroCO2 project will represent a key driver for the emergence of CCU Hubs across Europe. Besides the large-scale demonstration and full financial, regulatory, and environmental assessment of the PyroCO2 technology, the project will explore the sphere of public acceptance and market exploitation to further encourage the emergence of the CCU market.