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Hydrogenics to supply 1MW electrolyzer to project converting CO2 to methanol; Power-to-Gas

Hydrogenics Corporation will supply a 1MW electrolyzer and provide engineering expertise to a consortium of companies working on the European project MefCO2 (methanol fuel from CO2) in Germany. The application will take excess electricity from intermittent renewable energy sources, generate green hydrogen, and then create methanol using a low-carbon footprint production plant and carbon dioxide emissions from an existing coal-fired power plant in Essen, Germany owned by STEAG Gmbh, which operates a number of regional power plants and distributed energy facilities.

CO2 will be captured from the flue gases in a special downstream flue gas scrubber (Post-Combustion Capture, PCC). The Hydrogenics electrolyzer will produce 200 cubic meters of hydrogen per hour. The hydrogen and captured carbon dioxide will then be catalytically converted into methanol, with a daily yield of approximately one ton of methanol using approximately 1.4 tonnes of CO2.

Although a tried-and-tested process, direct methanol synthesis has not as yet been used in combination with a utility power plant and under load-flexible operations, notes project partner Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Europe (MHPSE). MHPSE is acting as the system integrator.

There is no difficulty to up-scaling the system, MHPSE said. Installations of up to 200 MW can be implemented relatively rapidly and efficiently operated. This kind of large-scale installation would produce up to 180,000 tons of methanol a year and thus stop emissions of up to 260,000 tons of CO2.

This project will use our most advanced PEM technology, developed specifically for utility-scale Power-to-Gas applications, and turn carbon dioxide into energy. Methanol production from green hydrogen represents a very promising way to decarbonize parts of the traditional fuel industry as well as chemical sector. Hydrogenics looks forward to the results of this energy storage demonstration project to further broaden the market for our electrolyzer technology in the production of renewable fuels.

—Daryl Wilson, CEO of Hydrogenics

The MefCO2 consortium consists of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Europe; the Laboratory of Catalysis and Reaction Engineering of the National Institute of Chemistry Slovenia; the Cardiff Catalysis Institute; Carbon Recycling International; the University of Genoa; the University of Duisburg Essen; i-Deals; and Hydrogenics.

The project has a budget of €11 million (US$12.4 million) and is partially funded by a grant from the EU Horizon2020 research program managed by the Spire public-private partnership. The project will last three to four years and involves the design, building and testing of systems to demonstrate the utilization of surplus and intermittent renewable energy sources and waste CO2 for the production of methanol.



Reuse CO2 to reduce emissions.


Sounds to me like the CO2 will be re-released when the methanol is burned. So you are effectively getting more energy for a given amount of CO2 released. I'm not sure why we are wasting time with this. Maybe to justify building more combustion power plants?


Estorageguy said:
' So you are effectively getting more energy for a given amount of CO2 released.'

Perhaps you would explain why this is a bad thing, except in some fantasy world of power from unicorn farts?


I'm not sure why we are wasting time with this. Maybe to justify building more combustion power plants?

No, it's because "the application will take excess electricity from intermittent renewable energy sources" and use this energy-to-gas process as a way to store the energy for later use.


QUOTE: "the application will take excess electricity from intermittent renewable energy sources"

There is no "excess electricity". The problem is that the coal-based power plants are given priority to sell their polluted electricity, rather than giving priority to the windmills. The windmills are then designated as "excess". This is pure balderdash, of course.

The correct solution is to dial down the coal plants, not to use some massively lossy process to convert the windpower electricity to methanol.

Roger Pham

>>>>There is no "excess electricity".

As intermittent solar and wind energy will increasingly replacing fossil fuel, there will be increasing periods of excess solar and/or wind energy (springs and falls), and there will be periods of energy shortage (winters).
Seasonal-scale energy storage for RE is a must if we are going to wean off completely from fossil fuels.

Here's hoping that methanol fuel cell (M-FC) will be as efficient as H2-FC, but so far, M-FC's efficiency has been way lower than H2-FC.
Also, what is the additional energy cost and monetary cost of converting H2 and CO2 into methanol?


You are clearly unfamiliar with how the power market works in Germany.
Renewables are prioritised over fossil fuels.

However as little as a nominal 10% of the grid average from wind results in more than 100% of the grid in very windy conditions, as it is hugely variable.

Similarly a low average from solar still results in more than 100% of the grid on a summer's day.

The difficulty in electrolysing this surplus is that it results in poor capacity utilisation for the electrolysers, even with buffering.

There are indeed sometimes surpluses from renewables though.


"No, it's because "the application will take excess electricity from intermittent renewable energy sources" and use this energy-to-gas process as a way to store the energy for later use."

Why not store as compressed air (CAES) or pumped hydro? Making hydrogen (electrolysys) is roughly 70% efficient then you are converting to methanol. Not sure what that efficiency is. Let's say it is 90% efficient. That makes overall efficiency 63%. Much worse than a battery (advanced lithium) and comparable with pumped hydro or CAES.


You can't dial down plants that are "must run" further than the level where they can supply their essential services, even if the plants burn coal.  The grid needs reserves, reactive power and load-following, and the negative-load characteristic of wind and PV means more such capacity is required, not less.  Skimp, and you get failures (frequency excursions, over/undervoltage, and blackouts).

Schedulable loads (like these electrolyzers) are one way of dealing with un-schedulable generation.  However, the cost of the product is going to be astronomical.  At Germany's wind capacity factor of less than 20%, those electrolyzers are going to be working at perhaps 12% of full capacity.  To put this in financial terms, the capital (and thus interest) cost will be 8.3 times as much as if the system just ran 24/7.

Then you have the cost of power.  Unless the feed-in tariff isn't paid for excess generation, that power should be priced at the FIT.  As of 2012, that was € 0.0893/kWh.  At an energy/gas ratio of perhaps 60 kWh/kg, the power to generate one kg of hydrogen costs €5.36.  It takes 3 moles of hydrogen to generate 1 mole of MeOH from CO2 (3H2 + CO2 -> CH3OH + H2O), so 1 kg of hydrogen will generate 166.7 moles of MeOH or about 5.33 kg worth (6.74 liters).  At about half the energy density of gasoline, this contains the energy of about 3.3 liters of petrol, for a cost of power of about €1.60 per petrol-liter-equivalent (CO2, electrolyzers and the methanol plant not included).  Since the juice alone costs well in excess of typical European pump prices with all taxes included, we can dismiss power-to-methanol as a toy of the wealthy.


Hi EStorageGuy:

You are pretty much on the money with your conversion efficiencies.

There is much discussion, some to considerable depth, of the options being considered in Germany here:

The bottom line is that the only thing that really fits the bill for the volumes needed is hydrogen, or methane if you put up with the additional losses.

Pumped storage is too geographically limited, as you need convenient mountains.
Check out Tom Murphy's blog for discussion of the energy characteristics of pumped storage and so on.


Perhaps I should add that although many think that I am an advocate of fuel cells and hydrogen, what I dislike is the grounds on which they are often dismissed.

If you are going to use loads of renewables, the only way we know which may work is to use loads of hydrogen and its derivatives, such as methane.

Otherwise the storage is impossible, and even with hydrogen the economics are difficult.

Personally I would simply build loads of nuclear reactors, which have much less need of hydrogen storage, but if lots of renewables are the choice, then the reality is that that means hydrogen.


You can use the CO2 and waste heat to create methanol, if you keep going you make DME and then gasoline, kerosene and/or diesel fuel. Considering what Europe pays for motor fuel, this could be a bargain.


A Plan:
If you have natural gas; switch your coal plants over;
Build out your hydro, wind and solar...other renewables; and buffer the demand with storage batteries and water storage, etc., dropping out gas plants as you build out. Buffer with a nuclear plant or two if needed; but, be aware an investment in nuclear means it will be around for a long time because they are an expensive investment.
Stay away from all the complication and complexity of changing forms of energy from one to another. These schemes are less efficient by their very nature and usually include continuing with hydrocarbons. Try not to create CO2 and pollution in the first place.

The whole idea is to stop mining and burning hydrocarbons, period.
Any modifications to the plan to make it cleaner?, have at it!

Roger Pham

If you live in cold climate, how are you going to heat your house in winters if you don't use fossil fuel, or use hydrogen made from RE collected from other seasons?In winters, RE output is not any higher than other seasons, yet the energy consumption due to heating demand will be several folds higher!
You will need a form of seasonal energy storage if you are going to completely wean off from fossil fuels.

Remember that if hydrogen is used for heating, or combined heat and power, the efficiency can approach 100%.
If the waste heat during electrolysis can be recycled, then efficiency of electrolysis can approach 100%.
If waste heat is being cycled on both sides, the round-trip efficiency of H2 production from RE can approach 100%.
There is no energy storage medium that can be more efficient than that!

Nick Lyons

This is a rich country 'solution' that is really beside the point. In the Third World, which is where the big growth in energy production is happening, this would be much too expensive. There they are building coal plants for electrification--cheapest energy available (externalities excluded, if course). We need even cheaper nuclear that can be deployed across the developing world.


The German's plan to use off shore wind, which at any rate would give them a higher capacity factor than you have used.
And no, I don't think it is a sensible way to do things either, but what I am trying to get across on this blog and elsewhere is that the notion of lots and lots of renewables is incredibly difficult and expensive anyway, but without using hydrogen it is flat out fantasy..


I am not quite sure what you mean by buffering with nuclear, particularly if you are talking in terms of 'a plant or two'.

What nuclear is great at is baseload, and you want to run it all the time to amortise the build cost.

That is why solar in Germany is not a help of any description, as it takes away all baseload in the days in the summer, slap bang when it is not needed in Germany.

In the States it is a different matter, as there is a considerable excess of peak summer demand over peak winter demand, so nuclear could provide baseload without solar getting in the way too much if used for the summer peak.

A nuclear fuel cycle is most economic and effective if you have at least a couple of dozen plants, and you do not increase such risk as there is which has in any case been grossly and wilfully exaggerated by having more plants proportionately to their number.

It is not ten times more risky to have twenty nuclear plants than two.

Solar in Germany has a large negative worth.
It ruins the economics of any sensible way of generating power, and provides power when it is of the very least use.


Most of the poor countries in the world are relatively close to the equator, close enough that solar is a whole different ball game without the massive annual variations which make it a nonsense in Germany, for instance.

I'd agree that they still need the highly concentrated energy from nuclear power to replace coal and run industry, but the potential of solar in most of the developing world is very high.


If you live in cold climate, how are you going to heat your house in winters if you don't use fossil fuel, or use hydrogen made from RE collected from other seasons?In winters, RE output is not any higher than other seasons, yet the energy consumption due to heating demand will be several folds higher!

In a word: Insulation. The Europeans have for many years been building houses to a much higher level of energy efficiency than can be got by stuffing fiberglass between 2X4 studs as we do in North America. And since the 1990s they've gone so far as to start building homes, and other building, to Passivhaus standards. Such buildings are designed to have an annual heating and cooling demand, as calculated with the Passivhaus Planning Package, of not more than 15 kWh/m² per year (4746 btu/ft² per year) in heating and 15 kWh/m² per year cooling energy OR to be designed with a peak heat load of 10W/m². Basically, you can heat these houses just from the waste heat of the normal activities of living in them. No furnace needed.


"can utilise waste heat (FOR) electrolysis"
Electrolysis TAKES IN HEAT.


Electrolysis is shown here (pg 12) at 77% efficient:

that is fair enough, as although Norsk Hydro hits 80% in some of their installations, a lot will be short of that.

They give the mid term likely efficiency (10 years?) as 84%, and show underground storage, presumably in salt caverns as that is what the German's are looking at, at 95% efficiency.

I don't know why they list fuel cells as only 30% efficient,as that is a lot less than the Kyocera home fuel cell gets, at 46.5% and 90% including the thermal heat capture for water heating:

It is also a lot less than fuel cells get in cars, or the miles per kg of H2 would be impossible.

So putting the numbers together:
0.84*0.95*0.9 where use of the heat is possible:
72% round trip.

Where heat capture is not possible, perhaps in a car:
0.84*0.95*0.465 = 37%, around the same as the very best gasoline engines.

Not all losses are accounted for their, so adding compression at 0.95% efficiency (target, DOE) then around 35% efficiency is obtainable in cars.

Pipeline losses might amount to 3%, so 0.97, then you end up with 34%.

That is in the right area to be practical, although of course when the electricity can be used more directly that is always more energetically efficient.

Those numbers work fine for VW's FCEV PHEVs though.


BTW they are already hitting 90% electrolysis efficiency here:


Hmm, there have been additions on the thread I just quoted since I last looked at it.

They are regarding higher heating value versus lower heating value, really issues for for engineers than the rest of us, but I prefer the more conservative figure of 77% for electrolysis, rather than the 90% or even 84% I used above.

0.77*0.95*0.9 where heat use is possible = 66%
0.77*0.95*0.465 where it is not = 34%

Allow an additional around 3% for pipeline losses.

That is still perfectly workable.


High temperature electrolysis with an SOEC can reach 90% efficiency when given high grade waste heat of 700C. This can come from concentrated solar thermal, the exhaust of a gas turbine in a combined cycle power plant or other sources.


Fair enough.
I simply beat a hasty retreat when the engineering gets abstruse and above my pay grade.

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