Environment & Sustainability

Power-to-gas: bridging electricity and gas for the energy transition

Two German companies, Amprion and Open Grid Europe, recently announced their intention to cooperate in the commissioning of 100 MW power-to-gas facility. An innovative collaboration coherent with the country coal and nuclear phase-out plans.

Power-to-gas: bridging electricity and gas for the energy transition

Power-to-gas could definitely be one of the technological solutions to cope with the energy transition. In the power sector one of the main hot topics and issues has indeed by no doubt become coping with an increasing share of intermittent and inflexible generation.

In this context energy storage systems (ESS) will allow an improved and greater exploitation of renewable energy sources for electricity generation (RES-E), granting the possibility to store the excessive electricity generated by intermittent sources and providing flexibility to the system.

EES includes a wide spectrum of technologies, such as, to mention few commonly known ones, batteries, flywheels, pumped-hydro plants, compressed air and… hydrogen.

Power-to-gas

A power-to-gas plant converts electrical power in a gas fuel, which, differently from electricity, can be stored, and also eventually used and transported without needing access to an electrical grid. A typical process is using electricity in the electrolysis chemical process to separate hydrogen present in water, which can then be used as a fuel, and also injected in the gas grid (under certain conditions and/or within some limits).

If electricity comes from RES-E, than we can talk about “green” hydrogen. And… since hydrogen production efficiency is usually around 70%, if electricity comes from RES-E excessive generations, which risks to be wasted… then we also have an efficient way to use and store energy that would otherwise be curtailed.      

The latest German power-to-gas plant plan

Following the above summarised story, the progressive appearance of power-to-gas related initiatives doesn’t come with surprise.

In Germany coal and nuclear phase-out plans, increasing RES-E generation and the fact that wind generation is in the north while power demand more in the south, are calling for flexibility/storage investments.

And some recent news goes exactly in that direction: two German electricity and natural gas transmission systems operators (TSOs), Amprion and Open Grid Europe (OGE), recently declared their intention to join forces in the so called “hybridge” power-to-gas project, a 100MW electrolyser plant along with hydrogen infrastructure in the district of Emsland in Lower Saxony.

The technical and economic aspects of the projects have already been examined and approved by the two TSOs, so that if the regulatory go-ahead will arrive soon, the plant could go into operation by 2023.

The plant, with its related hydrogen infrastructure, is a step toward electricity and gas coupling, supporting the security of supply and independency of the German (and European) energy sector. If more renewables can be effectively deployed, the use of fossil fuels can be progressively reduced without impairing energy security.  

The TSOs want to build a hydrogen network in the region and the plan includes transforming an OGE pipeline into a dedicated hydrogen pipeline. All of this will pave the way for a gigawatt scale power-to-gas available capacity after 2030 and “for sector coupling to be possible at system level”.

Other ongoing projects and publications

Few months before three other grid operators announced their intention to proceed with a similar project in the same region.  

At EU level the “HyCARE” hydrogen storage project just started in January and will last almost three years with the specific target to develop “a prototype hydrogen storage tank with use of a solid-state hydrogen carrier on large scale”.

And hydrogen industry might have a very relevant role especially in North Western Europe, as highlighted in a new World Energy Council publication.

Summing up, interest in power-to-gas and hydrogen seems to be growing, at least in Europe…

… Stay tuned for more updates on power-to-gas and hydrogen!

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