## New German ecoPtG project seeks to make power-to-gas commercially viable with help of automotive technology

##### 04 February 2016

In collaboration with engineering partner IAV, the Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg (Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg, ZSW); the Reiner Lemoine Institut (RLI); and Wasserelektrolyse Hydrotechnik (HT) are researching cost-effective methods of producing hydrogen with the help of automotive technology. In the ecoPtG project, the researchers and engineers are developing an alkaline water electrolyzer with an output of 100 kW. They aim to demonstrate that CO2-neutral hydrogen can be produced in a cost-effective manner and intend to facilitate the storage of electricity.

Electricity is increasingly being generated from fluctuating renewable sources. Solar and wind energy generation depends on the weather and is subject to significant fluctuations. At times, renewable energy production thus temporarily exceeds regional demand. Hydrogen produced according to the power-to-gas method can play a role in resolving this challenge and decarbonizing the transport sector. By converting electricity to gas, solar and wind power become storable. If required, hydrogen can be reconverted or used as environmentally compatible fuel for fuel cell vehicles.

High investment costs have been barrier to market entry, especially in the case of smaller electrolyzers. The partners set up the ecoPtG project to change this situation. Using a straightforward concept, simplified production processes and affordable materials—such as plastics—they intend to make the envisaged alkaline 100-kilowatt electrolysis fit for the market.

To achieve this aim, the project partners are predominantly using automotive technology, focusing on power electronics, steering and sensor technology as well as production process components for temperature control and media loops. In the automotive industry, many of these components, which also meet electrolysis requirements, are mass-produced cost-effectively using various drive technologies. The ecoPtG project has been designed to investigate ways of transferring these technologies to hydrogen production.

Peripheral parts such as the control unit or power electronics drive the costs up and are thus a major hurdle preventing industrial use of smaller electrolyzers. We know these parts from vehicle development where they are already produced in large volumes at low costs. IAV wants to use this know-how in the ecoPtG project with successful integration of vehicle technology in electrolyzers. Our aim is to develop a modular low-cost electrolyzer in the 100 kW class for the production of 4-35 kg hydrogen per day.

—Dr.-Ing. Christopher Severin, Head of Department for System Development and Combustion Concepts at IAV

Based on a resolution of the German Parliament, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology is providing a total of €4.75 million in funding for ecoPtG.

This is an old hat and nothing new. Pleas ref to:
(PDF / Fact Sheet - Green Hydrogen & Power to Gas - Germany ...)

Again, nothing about cost.  These news pieces need to give the per-kg cost (NOT price) of the product, including all of the power subsidies paid by electric consumers as "environmental fees".

Sodium-chloride batteries have more efficiency and can eliminate the need for and capital cost of hydrogen technology at far greater efficiency. the volume and perhaps even the weight of such energy storage units could be less than that of hydrogen tanks. Sodium-sulphur units may cost even less for stationary units. ..HG..

No battery can ever come close to the energy density of H2.

Hydrogen : 142 MJ/kg
gazoline : 44 MJ/kg
Li-battery : around 1 MJ/kg
(theoretically highest value for Li-air battery : 43 MJ/kg)

It's simple chemistry.

If you want to store lots of energy for a long time, H2 is the way to go. Moreover, H2 can be the starting point for almost all chemistry, and could even be used to produce food through micro organisms.

Cheap production of H2 from "waste" green electricity could open a world of applications.

But Alain,

There is the weight of the storage tank, fuel cell and ancillaries pump etc.

They also require some battery storage and ideally the same bi- directional charging lead and socket.

H2 will be big and will live up to many of the claims for sure but I doubt it will become as universal for transportation as the enthusiastic advocates suggest. Big but not ubiquitous. I imagine the development will be X times slower that claimed.

The reasons behind the enthusiasm are only half genuine. There are political (control issues) as well as politico financial (more control) considerations driving the fanaticism.

The science is good but the implementation is a long way behind the claims. This science fantasy has good chance of meeting it's claimed performance within the usual century odd time scale.

ETA 1950's - 2050?

It's interesting how the technicalities of transitioning from fossil fuels is so strongly debated.
It shows the passion, as well as the character flaws common to many - majority? of our species.

Not so much a criticism as an observation.

Henry said:

'Sodium-chloride batteries have more efficiency and can eliminate the need for and capital cost of hydrogen technology at far greater efficiency.'

Batteries are fine for coping with overnight storage, although currently they are still costly even for that.

They are orders of magnitude away from a reasonable solution for seasonal storage.

Pick-ups, 4 x 4 and SUVs cost much more to buy and operate than small sedans but millions buy them because they are more convenient.

This may be the case for extended range FCEVs versus extended range BEVs. Plain convenience will play an important role.

@Arnold, Sure there is more than only the weight of the H2, but the storage tank does not need to be so heavy. carbon fiber tanks like the one used in Mirai weigh 87kg, and improvements may be expected. Just like Tesla places its batteries at the bottom of the car, also H2 tanks could be spread more "disguised" instead of in the trunk.

I envision a plug-in hybrid with a small (=cheap) battery and a H2-fuel cell range extender. In that case, a 60kW fuel cell would suffice, Which is small for a car (mirai has 114 kW).

The same fuel cell in your house could deliver all the power you (and all of your neighbors) could need, and you can produce your own H2 when power is cheap (or free), and produce electricity when you need it. a few fuel tanks can store enough H2 to power your house for weeks. (and fill your car when you want to).

A cheap electroliser/fuel cell the size of a microwave oven, could deliver the 60kW power source / H2 production plant.
If it can be produced cheaply (without Platinum I presume), this could dramatically change the game on "reliability of renewables", and simultaneously open the way to 100% CO2-free electricity and road transport.

When modular fuel cells and carbon fiber fuel tanks are mass-produced (=gigafactory for H2 equipment), they may become cheap enough that anyone can have them at home. This would truly democratize energy, because anyone can easily store weeks or months worth of electricity at home, and sell it to neighbors, or use it in their cars.

Advocates of batteries sometimes see H2 as a political threat because it could replace "big oil" by "big hydrogen", but this will certainly not be the case. Everyone can produce its own H2, and it will be as abundant as rainwater.
It will be like a peer-to-peer economy of energy.

Nuclear may deliver the bulk of the electricity (although I speculate solar/wind will be cheaper), but the storage power of electricity (in the form of H2) of thousands of people will break any monopoly attempt.
Batteries will surely be used to store a few tens of kilowats, at best for powering your house for a few days, but H2 will be your spare energy for months, and may be very suitable for driving your car.

Yes, the potential to cheaply/affordably store REs as clean usable H2 for your home/office use and FCEVs may be coming soon (by 2020/2025 or so).

Japan, South Korea, Germany and China (and California?) may be the first to board the H2 train on a massive distributed way.

Future low cost REs and H2 are good matches.

Electrolytically-generated H2 is currently going for something on the order of $15/kg, if memory serves. The price goes down with economies of scale, which personal systems will certainly not enjoy. Further, the whole Hydrogen@Home notion goes against what is supposed to be the big advantage of the H2FC vehicle: fast, convenient filling. If you're going to "fuel" at home you might as well have a BEV, where your "investment" is a wall outlet. H2 needs to sell for$5/kg or less to compete with petroleum, all costs and taxes included.  None of the power-to-gas schemes out there are remotely close to this.  Essentially, RE-to-H2 is a scheme to turn reliable energy into a luxury good.  Only the rich will be able to afford it; everyone else will go back to bicycles, iceboxes instead of refrigerators, etc.

High H2 and FC cost is an early and temporary low production situation.

Cost of H2 (and FCs) will follow the cost of REs and will fall four folds from 12-16 USD/Kg to $3 to$4/Kg sometime between 2020 and 2030. By that time many REs will be below $0.04/kWh (in 2015 USD). In many areas with ultra low cost night time Hydro & REs, super clean H2 cost may fall to$3/Kg or so.

The commercial war between extended range BEVs and FCEVs has nor really started but may do so by 2020 or so.

In an off-grid situation this might be viable, because the surplus renewable energy can be zero marginal cost.

But in a developed country application with a mature electric grid it is hard to find an economic justification for this in terms of operating cost (cost of electricity and water to supply the electrolyzer per kW-h) and amortization of capital cost (operating an electrolyzer, dryer and compressor a few hour a day...)

The capital cost for small scale H2 production, purification and compression seems like a huge barrier.

Off peak clean e-energy is available a lot more than a few hours a day.

Here is a factual example:

1) Total hours in one year = 365.25 x 24 = 8766 hours

2) Yearly peak demands = 248 days x 7 h = 1736 hours

3) Yearly off-peak = (8766 - 1736) = 7030 hours

4) Daily off-peak = (7030/365.25) = 19.25 hours/day

PS: 19.25hours/day = 80.25% of the total time. This is certainly NOT just a few hours a day.

Just because a period is off-peak doesn't mean there will be surplus energy at that time.  The peak for solar is between about 10 AM and 2 PM solar time.  Most of that period is before peak hours, but the rest is mid-load and not off-peak.  PV generation during the overnight off-peak period is zero.

@ Alain

Hydrogen : 142 MJ/kg
gazoline : 44 MJ/kg
Li-battery : around 1 MJ/kg

It is NOT always weight that's the important factor. Sometimes you need to think about volume.

Hydrogen (compressed at 700 bar) has a MJ/L of only 5.6 and turning it into LN2 only gets you to 8.491

Clean e-energy availability during off-peak periods depends on the energy sources mix used and actual demand/load.

Wind energy is more prevalent during night hours. Solar energy is restricted to sunshine hours. Hydro is available 24/7.

Where the majority of e-energy is from Hydro, demand is the main factor dictating availability. Normally, the best availability (surplus periods) is on weekend days and holidays (24/7) and Monday to Friday between 21h and 06:30H. H2 stations and EV charging facilities can negotiate much lower tariffs during those off-peak periods.

Utilities prefer to sell energy, at a low tariffs during off-peak hours, instead of turning (almost) idle for the majority of the time.

UBER-X modulates their tariffs accordingly for the same reasons.

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