ITM Power, the energy storage and clean fuel company, announces that following the sale of a 360kW power-to-gas energy storage plant, announced in March, the Thüga Group has begun construction of its power-to-gas pilot plant in Frankfurt.
“Frankfurt was chosen because the infrastructure to connect an electrolysis plant was already available,” says Michael Riechel, member of the Thüga Management Board. In addition, the minimum gas sales in the region necessary for operation are guaranteed even in the summer months when consumption is low.
Over the course of a three-year operation 13 Thüga partners will test power-to-gas storage technology using the gas distribution network. In addition to testing the technical feasibility, the companies are calling for framework conditions that will enable reliable and economical operation of this technology.
By the end of 2013 the plant should be converting electricity into hydrogen for the first time and feeding into the local gas distribution network. Between then and 2016, the companies will gain experience in how the plant works under practical conditions.
At the core of the plant is a proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyser produced by ITM Power. The project partners have opted for this facility because, in comparison with alkaline electrolysers, the operating medium is water rather than a potassium hydroxide solution and is therefore more environmentally friendly. Furthermore, the system reacts more quickly to changes in the electrical load on the grid thanks to the PEM electrolyser.
A further advantage is the compact design, as a higher output can be achieved in the same unit area. The plant will produce around 60 cubic metres of hydrogen per hour and so feed 3000 cubic metres of natural gas enriched with hydrogen into the grid per hour. An expansion of the pilot plant is planned from 2016 and the hydrogen will then be converted to methane and fed into the gas distribution network.
Framework conditions must be right
In view of the high energy volumes to be stored, power-to-gas technology is of great importance. An analysis by Thüga has shown that the renewable energy storage requirements could be 17 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2020 and could even reach 50 TWh in 2050. The municipal gas distribution networks can manage these quantities in principle.
“Our gas distribution networks could therefore be the battery of the future,” Riechel offered. In order to allow the power-to-gas storage technology to realize its full potential, it first requires temporary start-up funding in the form of state grants in order to achieve a certain readiness for market as well as a legal foundation for this technology. So that operators should be exempt from end-user fees, for example.
“Energy storage facilities and therefore power-to-gas technology are a key to the success of the Energiewende (energy turnaround). To develop them we need a sustainable market model in Germany in the long-term – such as the one presented by the Thüga Group – in order to secure the economic operation of energy storage,” says Riechel.
Commenting on the announcement, ITM Power Managing Director, Phil Doran, said: “We are delighted that Thüga Group has started construction of what will be a vital reference site for all our partners as well as for national and regional government in Germany and ITM Power. From the end of this year, when it is up and running, this plant will become the focal point of our sales and marketing in the power-to-gas sector in Europe.”
Project partners include badenova AG & Co. KG, Erdgas Mittelsachsen GmbH, Energieversorgung Mittelrhein GmbH, erdgas schwaben gmbh, ESWE Versorgungs AG, Gasversorgung Westerwald GmbH, Mainova Aktiengesellschaft, Stadtwerke Ansbach GmbH, Stadtwerke Bad Hersfeld GmbH, Thüga Energienetze GmbH, WEMAG AG, e-rp GmbH as well as Thüga Aktiengesellschaft as project coordinator. The operational phase will be supervised by scientific project partners and by the Hesse Ministry for Environment, Energy, Agriculture and Consumer Protection.