The construction of a new north-south electric power line is being extensively discussed in Germany. MAN SE, one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of commercial vehicles, engines and mechanical engineering equipment, and mostly owned by the Volkswagen Group, prefers “power-to-gas” instead. Power-to-gas, or e-gas as Audi calls it, converts surplus electricity into synthetic natural gas and utilizes the existing gas infrastructure. Direct use can be made of natural gas in homes or to drive vehicles. Alternatively, it is also possible to convert it back into electricity with the aid of gas power stations.
Top technical solutions linked to the field of natural gas belong to our core competencies. In view of the existing alternatives, one should consider very carefully whether Germany’s citizens should really be expected to accept the expansion of electric power lines on a massive scale.— Dr. Georg Pachta-Reyhofen, CEO of MAN SE
Power-to-gas is a system solution designed to store large quantities of electricity produced from renewable sources on a long-term basis and subsequently make it available wherever it is needed without being connected to high-voltage power lines.
In the case of natural gas, MAN offers standard products along the entire process chain. For instance, MAN’s gas engines play a part in supplying decentralized power, especially as a back-up for electricity generated by wind or sun. Combined heat and power plants can generate energy using MAN’s natural-gas engines. Reaching energy conversion efficiency levels of up to 90%, the performance of combined heat and power plants is, in terms of efficiency, higher than that of large conventional power stations which achieve conversion efficiency of no more than around 40%.
Business with natural-gas-powered engines for combined heat and power plants in the 37 to 550 kilowatt range represents MAN’s most profitable and highest-turnover segment in the field of external engines.
MAN’s turbine technology is also relevant. As an example, 6 MW turbine is so compact that it even fits into a double garage, making it highly versatile—serving as a small on-site generator or on remote oil platforms. Solvin GmbH & Co KG, a joint venture between Solvay and BASF, saw its first commercial plant go into operation in fall 2013 with the new MAN gas turbine generation. Through cogeneration (CHP), it produces both heat and electricity – using more than 80% of the energy content of the natural gas employed.
In the form of CNG/biogas engines, MAN also offers clean mobility solutions for urban transport. MAN leads the market in this sector, having already delivered more than 5,000 buses and chassis with CNG engines, their output spanning five levels from 220 to 310 hp. Even without using biogas, the CO2 emissions generated by CNG engines is still some 17% less than in the case of diesel-powered vehicles.
Engines that can utilize liquefied natural gas as fuel are of increasing interest for ocean-going vessels. These engines emit significantly less carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide than conventional engines burning marine diesel or heavy fuel oil. The American shipping company, TOTE Inc., will be relying on MAN’s dual-fuel engines with gas injection for two new standard-container ships. These two container ships will be the first to be powered largely by liquefied natural gas.
In addition, MAN is also active in the field of natural gas production, e.g. with the aid of underwater compressors. The Group has, for instance, developed the world’s first subsea compressor. These are special compressors which immediately compress gas on the seabed and conduct it into pipelines in a transportable form – a milestone for the entire gas and oil industry. As a result, previously uneconomical reserves can now be exploited.