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E.ON developing pilot hydrogen plant for storing wind power in the German gas grid

E.ON is developing a pilot plant in Falkenhagen in the north east of Germany to convert power from wind energy into hydrogen which can then be stored in the country’s gas grid. The company is investing more than €5 million on the pilot plant and further research into this technology.

Using power from renewable energy sources, the plant will produce about 360 m3 (30 kg) of hydrogen per hour from 2013 onwards through electrolysis. The hydrogen will be fed into the Ontras gas pipeline system and be used like normal natural gas. This makes the gas grid a storage system for power from weather-dependent renewables.

At present, up to 5% hydrogen can be added to the natural gas grid without any problems, and in the medium term experts expect up to 15%, E.ON said; today’s entire renewable power output could be stored in the German gas grid. Demand for capacity on this scale will however only arise over the next decades, when most of generated power is coming from renewable energies, according to E.ON.

We need new storage capacities so that we can further increase the share of weather-dependent wind power in our generation portfolio in coming years. Using the existing gas infrastructure to store hydrogen is a promising approach in the long run, enabling us to combine our strengths as a power and gas company.

—Professor Klaus-Dieter Maubach, member of the E.ON AG Board of Management responsible for Technology & Development

If Germany increases the share of fluctuating wind and solar energy in power generation in the years ahead, the power available will at times exceed demand and bring the power grid to the limits of its capacity. E.ON is therefore investing in technology to store this excess power. At the moment, the focus is on enlarging the capacity of pumped-storage power stations. For instance, EON intends to extend the pumped-storage power station at Edersee in the federal state of Hesse and—together with its partners—build a new plant on the German-Austrian border.



Another "blend wall" in the making.


This would be really good if it works.
But I don't quite understand it - do they just mix in 5% H2 to the methane in the pipes already ?
What is to stop this causing hydrogen embrittlement or the H2 leaking out ?
Or is that why they can only got to 5% at present.

It would be even better to combine it with carbon from coal or biomass and store it as methane (which the pipes are designed to manage).

They badly need to find a way to buffer excess electricity from wind etc. if they are to get the percentages up.


Or use this H2 instead of that produced by steam reforming of natural gas. Is that market large enough to buffer a significant amount of energy?

I think we could go through a similar discussion to when AUDI (I think?) proposed something along these lines. H2 from intermittent wind electricity is cost-ineffective so it is embedded into a larger chain to hide this fact.


That's another parallel to ethanol, isn't it?


Frequency responsive heat pumps would be better as they would replace natural gas used in water/space heating and you wouldn't get conversion losses with hydrogen.

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