Germany’s Thüga Group to Demonstrate Renewable Electricity to Hydrogen for Injection into Municipal Gas Grid

26 Sep 2012

Thüga Renewable Energy to Hydrogen

Twelve companies of the energy utility Thüga group are to build a pilot plant to demonstrate the conversion of electricity from wind and solar power to hydrogen for injection into the municipal gas grid. The decision was taken at the end of August and the plant will be located in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region. Once suitable approval has been obtained, construction should begin in the second quarter of next year and the plant will start operating in late 2013. The demonstration phase will run to 2016 for the companies to gain experience of how such a system works under practical conditions.

Michael Riechel, on the Board of Thüga Aktiengesellschaft, one of the twelve Project partners, said that it was important for the project to make the transition from the lab to practical demonstration of hydrogen produced in this way being injected into a municipal natural gas network. For the companies involved, the concept is particularly interesting as over 80% of renewable electricity is produced at some distance from transmission networks and injection into a municipal gas network allows for an alternative way to supply the energy to consumers; the hydrogen can be used for highly-efficient combined heat and power generation or as a fuel. The plant will produce around 60 cubic meters of hydrogen per hour which will be fed in at a rate of 3,000 cubic meters per hour of hydrogen-enriched natural gas into the grid.

The selected location in Frankfurt is ideal as it has the necessary infrastructure for the connection of an electrolysis system. Additionally, a certain level of gas consumption is ensured even during the summer months; this is important because currently the proportion of hydrogen in the gas network may not exceed 5%, or 2% if a CNG filling station is in the network. The location also has a heat production plant, which generates carbon dioxide during combustion. This offers the possibility of a second demonstration phase after 2016 to test the synthesis of methane from the available hydrogen and carbon dioxide; methane can be fed into the gas network without restriction.

Electricity-to-gas is attractive for utilities of all sizes. The project partners include small, medium and larger members of the Thüga group: badenova AG & Co. KG, Erdgas Mittelsachsen GmbH, Energieversorgung Mittelrhein GmbH, erdgas schwaben GmbH, Gasversorgung Westerwald GmbH, Mainova Aktiengesellschaft, Stadtwerke Ansbach GmbH, Stadtwerke Bad Hersfeld GmbH, Thüga Energienetze GmbH, WEMAG AG, e-rp GmbH, with Thüga Aktiengesellschaft as project coordinator. Scientific partners will participate in the operational phase.

The intention is to facilitate efficient and cost-effective development of energy storage technology. The view of the project partners is that energy storage will be key to the German transition to renewable energy, which tends to be variable and challenging to integrate into the electricity grid. Given the high volumes of energy that will have to be stored, the technology in this demonstration is of great importance as it provides a way to buffer the electricity grid from seasonal and daily fluctuations using the existing natural gas distribution network. "The natural gas distribution system may be the battery of the future," concludes Riechel.

Source: Thüga AG (In German)

Image: Thüga Aktiengesellschaft

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