A methanation plant expansion to the existing power-to-gas (PtG) facility in Falkenhagen, Germany has officially opened as part of the international €28-million (US$33.5-million) STORE&GO research project. Construction on the methanation plant began in July 2017. While the current facility feeds pure hydrogen (“WindGas”) directly into the gas grid, the new methanation plant provides for the generation of “green” methane.
In this second stage, hydrogen from regenerative energy sources is converted into methane (CH4), i.e. synthetic natural gas, using CO2 from a bio-ethanol plant. This constitutes an important contribution to the success of the energy transition, because green methane, in contrast to green hydrogen, can be used in a wider variety of ways.
It can be made available to a variety of markets, such as the manufacturing sector, the electricity, and heating market as well as the mobility sector. Moreover, it provides for unrestricted use of the natural gas infrastructure, including for transport and storage. This stored energy is then available as backup whenever there is an insufficient supply of solar and wind power.
The STORE&GO project brings together 27 partners from six countries to explore the opportunities for integrating power-to-gas applications into the European energy network and, in particular, to encourage the methanation of hydrogen as an important component of the energy transition.
The wind-to-gas pilot plant “WindGas Falkenhagen” was constructed in 2013 to store wind energy in the natural gas grid. The cornerstone for the methanation plant was laid in July 2017, and additional essential components were put in place directly alongside the existing facility. All work was completed on schedule.
The methanation plant produces up to 57 m3/h of SNG (synthetic natural gas, at normal pressure and temperature), which equates to an output of 600 kWh/h. The heat generated by the process is used by a nearby veneer plant.
The innovative, commercial scale facility was created in cooperation with the partners thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions, the research center for the German Association for Gas and Water (DVGW), and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and will be in operation for analysis over the next 24 months. Dr. Christian Ehler, member of the European Parliament, is serving as sponsor to the project.
STORE&GO focuses on the integration of PtG into the daily operation of European energy grids to investigate the maturity level of the technology. Three different demonstration sites—Falkenhagen, Troia (Italy), and Solothurn (Switzerland) offer highly diverse testing grounds for PtG:
Available energy sources (high wind power; PV and hydro; PV and wind power)
Local consumers (low consumption; municipal region; rural area)
Electricity grid type (transmission grid; municipal distribution grid; regional distribution grid)
Gas grid type (long distance transport; municipal distribution grid; regional distribution grid)
Type of CO2 source (biogas; waste water; atmosphere)
Heat integration (veneer mill; district heating; CO2 enrichment)
Moreover, three different innovative methanation processes will be developed and improved from Technology Readiness Level 5 (TRL) close to maturity (TRL 6–7):
Catalytic honeycomb/structured wall methanation reactors
Modular milli-structured catalytic methanation reactors