European power-to-methane company Electrochaea opens California subsidiary
21 October 2020
Electrochaea GmbH, a European provider of renewable methane technology, has established a California-based US subsidiary, Electrochaea Corporation, to accelerate the commercial roll-out of its technology in North America.
Electrochaea employs a patented biocatalyst (BioCat) to convert low-cost and stranded electricity and CO2 into pipeline-grade renewable gas. This gas can be directly injected into the existing natural gas grid or used immediately. The core of the power-to-gas (P2G) technology is the proprietary biocatalyst that can be deployed in a simple and cost-effective energy conversion system.
Electrochaea’s proprietary biocatalyst is a selectively evolved—i.e., not genetically engineered—strain of methanogenic archaea, a single-celled microorganism that has populated Earth for billions of years. These organisms can be found in a broad range of habitats, including some of the most extreme environments on the planet, such as volcanic hot springs, salt lakes, in addition to that, oceans and soils, among others. The strain of archaea used in Electrochaea’s P2G process has been adapted for industrial application by Prof. Laurens Mets at the University of Chicago.
The archaea exhibit several unique properties including high mass conversion efficiency, tolerance to many contaminants typically found in industrial CO2-sources (oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, particulates), high selectivity in methane production, and very fast reaction kinetics that enable scale-up to commercial application.
Electrochaea is currently pursuing energy storage via a two-step P2G system that uses an off-the-shelf electrolyzer to produce hydrogen. This hydrogen is then fed to a separate bioreactor containing the archaea along with carbon dioxide from a biogenic or industrial source.
Because of the high selectivity of the archaea, minimal post-reaction gas treatment is needed before the product gas is injected into the gas grid. Oxygen and heat are by-products from the process and can be sold in a broad range of different markets, either on-site or off-site.
Over the past six years, Electrochaea has successfully developed renewable methane from the lab to industrial-scale pilot plants in Denmark and Switzerland, feeding the national gas grids.
In 2019 the company opened a third pilot plant at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with support from SoCalGas. The company has several renewable methane projects under development in the US as it moves forward with commercial roll-out in North America.
The business development activities of the new US subsidiary will focus on development and execution of commercial opportunities and partnerships in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Electrochaea’s headquarters, with laboratories, engineering and business functions, will remain in Munich.
In August, Electrochaea announced it was receiving an EU grant of €2.5 million and an equity investment of €15 million for the scaling up of its technology and construction of the first standard 10-megawatt (MWe) plant.
Capture power plant CO2, reuse to reduce emissions.
Posted by: SJC | 21 October 2020 at 06:46 AM
Natural gas is super cheap at present, and about 1/10th the cost of grid power per Joule. Even if the surplus power to be used by this process is zero cost I would question the economics. Just maybe a negative value for the captured CO2 would balance the books, but I am not holding my breath.
Posted by: CJY | 21 October 2020 at 09:16 AM
Let me get this right; produce hydrogen by using electricity then add carbon back in from CO2 to produce hydrocarbon gas which you reburn back into CO2?
This might be a good idea in an apocalypse; but, we ain't there...yet!
Posted by: Lad | 21 October 2020 at 04:04 PM
This process would be even better if the methane was converted into methanol. Methane is a-- super greenhouse gas-- if it leaks into the atmosphere.
Methanol can also be utilized by natural gas electric power plants if such facilities are retrofitted to use methanol (a relatively cheap process). Methanol can also be used in fuel cell electric power plants which are even better for peak load power production.
Methanol is also a lot safer and convenient to store relative to methane especially if California shifts towards microcrids in order to substantially reduce power outages and forest fires.
Methanol, of course, can also be converted into gasoline and jet fuel and dimethyl ether (a diesel fuel substitute).
Posted by: Newpapyrus | 21 October 2020 at 06:01 PM
Natural gas is available in few places but electric to methane can be produced everywhere.
Posted by: Nirmalkumar | 21 October 2020 at 08:59 PM
Probably one of the best uses for the Electrochaea process will be to use the methanogenic archaea on biogenic sources like landfill gas or dairy wastes which actually contain about 39% CO2 and are a significant source of greenhouse gas.
As pointed out, instead of pitting the methane into a pipeline it would be better to convert it to methanol which is a key feedstock for the production of chemicals or for fuels.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 21 October 2020 at 09:40 PM
BioPropane may be the answer!
After reading the GCC post on the "ROUSH CleanTech Gen 5 propane autogas fuel system", I wondered if this could help make the Electrochaea process more economical and usable for fuel applications.
The Alkcon Process uses a dielectric barrier discharge (non-thermal plasma) reactor, methane gas to convert Methane to Propane (Reaction: 3CH4 --> C3H8 + 2H2). The excess H2 may be used to feed the Electrochaea process. (Reference: https://www.alkcon.com/alkcon-process/).
So ROUSH Clean Tech using Renewable Propane could replace Diesel fuel in most Class 3-7 trucks with little modification and it is widely used in School Buses.Though this use looks better suited to BEV. However, for long range applications BioPropane might be a perfect fuel.
Cummins is working with the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) to develop a 6.7 propane demonstration engine based on its B6.7 diesel, that it claims will outperform diesel in key areas. If
You could use this engine combined with the Cummins PowerDrive hybrid system (which has already been demonstrated in a electric hybrid Kenworth T370 utility truck) for long range trucking.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 22 October 2020 at 11:04 AM
Echoing what others have said, methanol or DME is better fuel for transport
Posted by: dursun | 22 October 2020 at 03:15 PM
Turn methane into DME, which is liquid at a lower pressure.
Posted by: SJC | 22 October 2020 at 08:23 PM
In Denmark, where the BioCat project took place, the CO2 in question comes from biogas (typically 55-60% CH4 and 40-45% CO2) from sludge from a waste water treatment plant.
Nobody is suggesting to capture CO2 from fossil fueled power plants and convert them back to hydrocarbons.
This technology becomes relevant for non-power producing CO2 point sources.
I believe one of the advantages of this biological process over 'conventional' catalytical methanation via the Sabattier process, is less sensitivity to sulphur. In fact, those organism - which originate from from vulcanic hot springs - may actually enjoy sulphur. Typical Sabattier catalysts require ppb level sulphur in the CO2 stream.
Biogas always contains sulphur.
PS: When I press the 'Preview' button, there is no 'Post' button and I cannot get back to my text. Fortunately I copied it before I clicked. Does anyone else have the same issue?
Posted by: Thomas Pedersen | 23 October 2020 at 01:26 AM
I recall when the announcement of the archaea-based electro-methane process hit GCC. Now it's going commercial.
Glad to see it. Seriously.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 23 October 2020 at 06:21 AM