Our contribution to the energy transition
At Uniper, innovation is aimed at improving existing business areas on the one hand, and on the other, developing new areas of business to the point where they can be transferred to existing or new business units.
The expansion of fluctuating renewable electricity production from wind and solar energy, as well as variable consumption, makes energy storage imperative for the future. In years to come energy storage technologies will make a growing contribution to the energy system. The benefits of storage are particularly evident when it comes to providing power generated from wind and solar resources in the form of electricity, heat or gas at a suitable point in time. Energy storage systems therefore are crucial to the efficient use of energy in an increasingly distributed energy system spanning different industries. Synergies with industry and mobility reduce costs and make a further contribution to climate protection.
The Power-to-Gas topic has been allocated to Uniper Energy Storage. Activities like these make a major contribution to the energy transition.
Power-to-Gas, the technology
Power-to-Gas is a technology designed to integrate renewable electricity in different gas applications. Power-to-Gas refers to the conversion of electricity to hydrogen or, in an additional process step, to methane.
The regenerative gas generated can be used as a substitute for natural gas or other fossil energy carriers in a diverse range of applications (e.g. in the industry, mobility and heating sectors and also for electricity generation). This technology represents the link between the electricity and gas market.
In Falkenhagen in the state of Brandenburg (Prignitz), Uniper Energy Storage has constructed the world’s first demonstration plant for storing wind energy in the natural gas grid.
The plant stores electricity generated by wind turbines. Around 360 Nm³/h of hydrogen is generated by means of electrolysis and fed via a 1.6 km hydrogen pipeline into the gas grid operated by ONTRAS Gastransport GmbH. In this way, the energy is available to the electricity, heating, mobility and industrial market as and when required, just like normal natural gas. Alkaline electrolysis is a tried-and-tested method and, in the first year of operation, more than 2 million kWh of hydrogen (“WindGas”) were fed into the grid up to July 2014. This pilot phase is designed as a means of gaining technical, economic and administrative experience for the technology’s commercial application.
You will find futher detailed information on WindGas Falkenhagen and the technology power to gas in our project profiles in the media library.
In May 2018 the expansion of the power-to-gas plant to a methanation plant in Falkenhagen was successfully completed. The European research project STORE&GO is thus entering the next phase.
The innovative, commercial scale facility was created by Uniper in cooperation with the partners thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions, the research center for the German Association for Gas and Water, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and will be in operation for analysis over the next 24 months. Attending the official opening ceremonies were project sponsor Dr. Christian Ehler, Member of the European Parliament, and Eckhardt Rümmler, COO at Uniper, as well as Jochen Homann, President of the Federal Network Agency, along with other project participants and guests from the worlds of politics, science, and business.
Generation of “green” methane
While the current facility feeds pure hydrogen (so-called “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 more established 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.
Important step for the energy transition
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.
At our pilot plant WindGas Hamburg in Reitbrook we are testing, jointly with our project partners, an alternative electrolysis process: the so named PEM electrolysis. PEM stands for proton exchange membrane.
The project comprises the development of the first prototype PEM electrolyzer operating in the 1.5MW range. Field trials of the system are being conducted, the hydrogen produed being injected into the local natural gas grid. In PEM electrolysis, at the electrode a semi-permeable polymer-based membrane generates hydrogen at high pressure, delivering lower energy losses and higher hydrogen purity compared with conventional systems which use a liquid alkaline electrolyte.
You will find further information on our WindGas pilot plants in the corresponding project profiles in our download area or on the WindGas Hamburg website (in German).