Three grid operators are coming together to develop a power-to-gas facility using electricity from offshore wind in order to stabilise the grid, limit curtailment and reduce the future need for grid expansion.
TenneT, Gasunie Deutschland and Thyssengas have put forward detailed plans for coupling the electricity and gas grids in their respective countries and advancing the energy transition. The trio are planning to build a 100-MW power-to-gas pilot plant in Lower Saxony which will be the largest of its kind in Germany. Potential sites are located in the vicinity of the TenneT substations at Diele and Conneforde, which primarily distribute offshore wind energy from the North Sea.
The ‘Element One’ pilot project will give the companies initial experience with power-to-gas facilities on an industrial scale. Starting in 2022, the pilot plant will be connected to the grid gradually. By converting green energy into gas, it will develop new storage capacities for renewable energy.
The partners ultimately hope to achieve a comprehensive coupling of the energy, transport and industrial sectors. Gas that has been produced from green energy will be transported from the North Sea to the Ruhr region through existing pipelines, but other potential applications are foreseen. The gas could also be made available to the mobility sector through hydrogen filling stations and to industrial consumers through storage caverns.
As recently highlighted by OWJ in the Q3 2018 issue of the magazine and articles below, power-to-gas technology converts renewable energy into gas (so-called ‘green hydrogen’ or methane) that is transported or stored in the gas grids. Once converted into gas, the renewable energy can be used in other sectors, which ultimately accelerates the energy transition.
Lower Saxony minister of environmental affairs Olaf Lies said of the project, “It is an extremely important signal for Lower Saxony as an energy state. The expansion of offshore and onshore wind energy is advancing. But we cannot think of the energy transition in terms of electricity only. Sector coupling is a crucial aspect of it. I am delighted that important players of the energy transition are taking steps in that direction now. That is the right signal.
“Some industrial companies are already working on power-to-gas technologies. We need to implement industrial policies that specify standards for the relevant facilities. That is happening in this case. There is great potential for development, especially when it comes to coupling the electricity and gas grids. The use of green hydrogen for transport, heating and industrial purposes also offers enormous opportunities. We must not focus only on electricity. A wider perspective will enable us to implement a variety of new technologies and have a diverse range of companies working in the field.”
The trio of grid operators have presented the Element One project to Thomas Bareiß (MP), the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy. He expressed great interest in the proposal and said he was “convinced that the use of renewable energy in the form of hydrogen would constitute an important solution to major questions of the energy transition.”
TenneT said it believed there is great potential in power-to-gas technologies, particularly as they can introduce urgently needed flexibility into the power grid.
TenneT managing director Lex Hartman said, “We need powerful storage technologies if we want to achieve our ambitious expansion target for renewable energy by 2030. The ability to store large volumes of renewable electricity will reduce the load on the power grid. That, in turn, helps us limit the expensive curtailment of wind turbines and make the power supply more reliable. Storing more green energy also entails a reduced need for further grid expansion after 2030.”
Gasunie Deutschland managing director Jens Schuurman said, “Power-to-gas technologies are crucial if we want to achieve our climate targets for 2030 and 2050. “Sector coupling – the intelligent, economic integration of gas, electricity, heat and transport infrastructures – offers immense potential that is yet to be unlocked. Power-to-gas technologies are extremely relevant in this respect, as they constitute a practical solution for connecting previously separate infrastructures.
Thyssengas GmbH chairman Dr Thomas Gößmann said “This planned construction of a major power-to-gas plant also makes it clear that the energy transition must have an engineering dimension to succeed.
“The transition relies on technical innovation and a multisectoral search for viable engineering solutions. If we dare to join our technical expertise in a purposeful and focused way, we will succeed. We now need the right framework to apply our technical skills profitably.”