The STORE&GO project will end on the 30th of February 2020 and in all likelihood with great success. The most important milestones have all been met and the upcoming milestones are already in the concrete planning or even already at the last stretch. Three power-to-gas demo sites are in operation and produce first well-founded results. Cross-cutting activities deal with various technical and techno-economic analyses and regulatory recommendations for Europe. Results will be published within the upcoming months, culminating in a European power-to-gas roadmap. This will provide a strategy on how to integrate this promising technology into the continent’s energy system and how to contribute to the energy transition.
The growing number of renewable power sources will demand for long-term and large-scale storage in the future. One option is power-to-gas (PtG) that allows for storing power by producing synthetic hydrogen or methane. Generating gas from renewable electrical power with PtG is by far the most promising way to store large amounts of energy. It also reduces the need and cost for expanding the electricity grid.
To develop the technology further, three demonstration sites have been installed within the STORE&GO project. The first to operate was the power-to-gas plant in Falkenhagen, Germany. Its existing power-to-hydrogen process was expanded by a methanation stage in May 2018, and synthetic methane has been fed into the natural gas grid since January 2019. This allows the partners of the international research project STORE&GO to demonstrate the technical feasibility of the power-to-gas process for feeding “green” gas into the natural gas grid.
At present, the plant produces up to 1,400 cubic meters of synthetic methane (SNG) per day, which corresponds to approximately 14,500 kWh of energy. For comparison: With this amount of energy, 200 golf class CNG cars could drive about 150 km per day. The plant has already achieved over 700 operational hours with a methane purity reliably above 99 percent. The green methane is produced from hydrogen, which in turn is generated with electricity from renewable sources, and CO2 from a bioethanol plant. The heat generated during the process is used by the nearby veneer mill, which increases the overall efficiency of the plant.
The second STORE&GO demonstration site is located in Solothurn, Switzerland. It is the only one of the three STORE&GO plants that uses biological methanation. Countless microorganisms, so-called Archaea, convert hydrogen and CO2 to methane in the central vessel. After busy months working with high intensity to finish the plant, the operators could finally animate the frugal microorganisms to spawn and to generate methane. The Solothurn plant has been producing methane since May 2019.
The community of Troia in Italy houses the third of the STORE&GO demo sites. This plant combines direct CO2 capture from air and a novel milli-structured methanation unit with an innovative micro-scale liquefaction unit for the produced methane. Such sequence of new technologies displays possibly the most experimental one among the STORE&GO plants. The Troia process chain produced methane for the first time in April 2019. All three plants will use the remaining project duration to gather experience from operation and to provide real data for further analysis within the project.
The STORE&GO partners also performed a full cost-benefit analysis to assess the macro-economic value of having PtG in the year 2050. Results show that PtG lowers the total costs of the energy system and that it prevents more expensive investments or higher operational costs in other parts of the energy system. PtG increases the energy security of the energy system by lowering the probability of shortages of energy, for example during periods of low wind and solar energy production in Europe. PtG could ease bottlenecks in the electricity grids and allow for including renewable energy at lower costs than what would be required for extending electricity grids.
From a technological point of view, renewable gases are ready to be integrated within the energy system. However, the current legal and regulatory framework and market conditions impede the installation of industrial-scale power-to-gas plants and the ramp up of gas production. STORE&GO partners found out that an optimized plant layout combined with proper market conditions would enhance viability and offer opportunities in particular for seasonal storage of renewable energy. For the future legislation period in Europe it will be necessary to find a legal category for PtG, to define who is allowed to operate it, and to harmonise rules for operating gas networks.
The consortium will shortly publish all results mentioned here in Deliverable documents on the project website and in peer-reviewed scientific publications.
The STORE&GO project partners are working on channelling the results into a European PtG roadmap. The power-to-gas roadmap is being prepared and will be finished by the end of the project. All generated results and scenarios will be combined to set up a strategy for the integration of power-to-gas technology in Europe. The roadmap aims at a holistic approach considering a wide range of aspects such as techno-economic feasibility of energy storage operations, integration of PtG concepts in the electricity grid management and power supply, reduction of regulatory barriers for PtG, as well as potential market uptake for PtG across Europe.