Power-to-gas – renewable gas for decarbonising the future.

The political objectives of the energy transition are fundamentally changing the German energy system. The share of fossil fuels in energy supply is to be drastically reduced by the year 2050. This necessitates not only rethinking in all areas of energy production but also innova­tive technical solutions which transcend the boundaries of electricity supply and promote the energy transition.

Our gas infrastructure can – independent of the transport of fossil natural gas – make an indispensable contribution to the success and distribution of renewable energy. In Germany the markets of different energy systems are waiting to be connected to each other in such a way as to benefit the systems.

In brief: sector coupling or also Integrated Energy. Electricity, heat, transport, industry – significant synergy gains can be made with cross-sectoral thinking. Electricity generated from renewable energy sources, power-to-gas, synthesis gas and hydrogen can thus play an important role on the heat market and in mobility.


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Cross-sectoral system solutions are required.

At present, thinking is still too often one-sidedly directed towards the electricity market. However, the opportunities are much greater if sectors are connected using technologies such as power-to-gas.

Thyssengas is convinced of the cross-sectoral system solution power-to-gas and wishes to make its knowhow and infrastructure available for the economical route towards climate-friendly energy generation.

Only by means of a cross-sectoral approach can the desired decarbonisation be achieved in an ecologically and economically justifiable manner in an ongoing transformation process. If it is not possible to achieve a smooth transition, there are bound to be tough breaks.

Specifically: If modern, efficient heating systems, vehicles and infrastructure whose useful life is far from being exhausted are devalued overnight, this causes great damage – to the environment, the economy, companies, and not least to all individuals on a private level. We therefore advocate organising decarbonisation in a forward-looking way as an ongoing process using existing infrastructure – for example with the power-to-gas concept.

What is behind power-to-gas?

The basic idea of power-to-gas is to make use of renewable electricity. The wind and the sun are inexhaustible energy sources; wind power and solar installations are already today producing large quantities of electricity.

For example, on two days in May 2016 you supplied between 90 and 100 per cent of Germany’s electricity requirement from solar and wind power.

This was unfortunately of no use, as there are no grids to distribute electrical energy to satisfy demand and no electricity storage facilities exist. So in the north there is a green electricity surplus which is urgently required in the south. However, the construction of electricity highways across Germany is being delayed more and more. For the foreseeable future it will be impossible to control energy generated from renewable sources to meet needs. If electricity consumption is lower than current production, the plants will be shut down or the electricity will be exported abroad at dumping prices.

And so large quantities of environmentally friendly energy are lost to us, as there are no possibilities of storing the electricity generated in this way or to transport it to the areas in Germany where it is needed.

 

This situation results in a further phenomenon: negative electricity prices. On Mother’s Day, May 8th 2016, the electricity prices slipped into the negative range for seven consecutive hours. In other words: network operators had to pay consumers up to 130.09 euro per megawatt hour for them to purchase the electricity.

In 2015, the number of hours with negative electricity prices rose by 100 per cent in comparison with 2014! This results in immense costs for the economy, because electricity is not stored or converted into useful energy. And this tendency is increasing, because more electricity is produced by wind and solar power plants year by year.

Green energy for everybody: immediately and without new power lines.

The necessary storage element already exists. The gas network and gas storages could store the renewable electricity and transport it to where it is needed. The infrastructure is already well developed, invisible and safely below the ground.

The enormous transport and storage potential can help to master the central challenges of the energy transition arising from the volatility of renewable energy sources. Besides the surplus phases already described, Germany in particular is affected by so-called winter doldrums.
Especially in the winter months, when energy consumption is high, there are many days on which the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow.

As a result, almost all the producers of renewable electricity fail and there is an extremely wide gap between demand and production. Without an integrated system of storage and control elements, electricity must then be purchased from coal or nuclear power plants at home or abroad.

This is not an acceptable long-term perspective. For this reason we see our gas infrastructure as a central element in the storage, transport and needs-oriented management of the required energy both in the gas AND in the electricity sector.

If one no longer takes a static view of energy as electricity or gas but as a convertible transport commodity, today’s European gas infrastructure can already transport ten times as much energy, also across borders, as the existing electricity grid. Wind power from the coasts of Northern Europe or solar energy from Southern Europe is transported through our gas network to central conurbations. Also without investments of billions of euros in unpopular electricity highways which will not be available for several years.

Future energy supply must above all be one thing: flexible.

With technologies such as power-to-gas and a sensible demand side management the intelligent and at the same time necessary interaction of electricity grids and gas networks can be substantially extended – the best prerequisites for a sustainable role in the energy system of the future.

For this purpose electricity is converted into hydrogen and can thus be transported on the gas network.

Hydrogen is a valuable energy and is one of the energy sources of the future, as it can, unlike fossil fuels, be produced from renewable energy sources and does not cause any harmful emissions during the combustion process. It is already used today for example in fuel cells. Furthermore, hydrogen can be converted into methane – or natural gas – through the addition of CO2.

The synthetic natural gas (SNG) produced has almost identical properties to those of fossil natural gas and is, like biogas, a regenerative energy which can be delivered to the gas network without problems. Wind and solar power which cannot be used at once thus become one of the most versatile energy sources which is available exactly when and where it is needed.

Gas will remain heating energy no. 1 – but will become climate neutral.

This cross-sectoral system solution could generate heat from the climate neutral synthesis gas produced in this way with modern gas appliances, which can be called upon whenever it is needed. At the same time, it is also used as a fuel for decentralised power supply.

The synthesis gas reaches the consumers via the Thyssengas infrastructure and can replace fossil energy and reduce dependence on fossil energy sources.

To stabilize the climate, CO2 emissions are to reach their peak before 2030 and undergo a maximum reduction as quickly as possible.

Our transmission network delivers the “green” gas to all buildings and industrial plants, where it is converted into comfortable heat in existing heating systems. Or it generates the temperatures required for industrial processes.

In brief: In this way existing plants can continue to be operated in a climate neutral manner, and no values are destroyed.

Driving a modern, mobile society.

Besides heat generation there are further areas of application: the cross-system solution concept power-to-gas provides an alternative fuel for mobility.

Either direct as hydrogen for the operation of fuel cells in electric cars, which provide the power for locomo¬tion instead of batteries. Or power-to-gas charges battery-operated vehicles after conversion into climate neutral electricity.

Furthermore, the hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources enables the substitution of hydrogen from fossil feedstocks – for example in the chemical industry.

Ultimately, our gas network with its large storage capacity could also reduce the costs of the energy transition in the long term and already improve the German CO2 balance today. It can deliver stored renewable energy to meet demand. The exports of cheap electricity to neighbouring states customary today would become unnecessary and the price capers on the electricity exchange would be a thing of the past.

A common task.

Partnership in an integrated, cross-sectoral concept leads us to our aim of decarbonised energy supply.

A smooth transition exploits the life cycle of existing infrastructure and technology in an optimum way.

Large quantities of energy already used and both economic and private assets are stored in existing plants and vehicles. Let us maintain and use these resources!

This will succeed only if all parties concerned collaborate across sectors under politically secure conditions. We are pleased to contribute our knowhow in partnerships with players and decision-makers in the energy business, in politics and among customers.

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Thyssengas GmbH
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info@thyssengas.com

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Dr. Thomas Gößmann
Chairman of the Executive Board of Thyssengas GmbH
Jörg Kamphaus
Managing Board of Thyssengas GmbH

Chairman of the Supervisory Board:
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Klaus Homann

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