Plant is “further step on road to transformation of the European energy industry”

RWE has today launched a state-of-the-art power-to-gas plant in Germany.

RWE Deutschland believes that the plant’s energy storage technology “will become an essential element of our future electricity system”, while MEP Markus Pieper the plant “is a further key step on the road to transformation of the European energy industry”.

The plant, located in Ibbenbüren in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), is part of new system that links together the supply of local electricity, natural gas and district heating.

Any superfluous electricity from renewables is converted into hydrogen so it can be stored within the natural gas network. From there it can later be recalled for use in electricity production.RWE launches power-to-gas plant

RWE said that the power-to-gas process is one of the key technologies for tomorrow’s energy supply.

Dr Arndt Neuhaus, chief executive of RWE Deutschland, said that energy storage solutions “will become an essential element of our future electricity system, where, according to German government plans, in fifteen years’ time, renewable energy sources will cover 50 per cent of the country’s power needs – or almost double the current rate”.

Neuhaus added: “Our electricity grid will have to perform at an even higher level than before to achieve this. Under these changed conditions, the power-to-gas technology will be an exemplary solution, as it makes it possible for us to respond immediately to fluctuating volumes of incoming power.”

A central element of the power-to-gas plant is an electrolyser the size of a shipping container, which was built by the UK firm ITM Power.

The electrolyser converts into hydrogen any power from renewable sources such as solar panels or wind turbines that is not immediately required. It is then mixed into the natural gas network via a gas pressure regulation station where the waste heat of the electrolyser is also utilised.

In times of low renewable power production, the previously stored natural gas can be siphoned off from the storage facility and used in a co-generation plant within the RWE district heating network in Ibbenbüren to generate power.

RWE said that the combined heat and power generation system used there also leads to much better power utilisation thanks to the new system solution.

The plant has a rated power output of 150 kilowatts and creates hydrogen under 14-bar pressure.

Dr Joachim Schneider, chief technology officer of RWE Deutschland, said: “In order to be able to pick up excess electricity from renewable sources onto our grid, we need alternatives to conventional grid expansion methods.

“This was the driving force behind our decision to embrace this new technology. The hydrogen that is created by electrolysis can be stored and later used to generate power. The benefit of this form of electricity storage is the enormous infrastructure already offered by the natural gas network – which has huge storage capacity and a high-performing network.”

Schneider added that “with a utilisation rate of 86 per cent, this power-to-gas plant is the most efficient of its kind in Germany.”

EU Member of Parliament Dr Markus Pieper said the launch of the new plant “is a further key step on the road to transformation of the European energy industry”.

NRW Minister of Economics Garrelt Duin said: “This ultra-modern power-to-gas plant is further evidence of the fact that NRW is the number one energy region in Germany. The option of storing excess eco-power locally and later using it when it is needed is an innovative and technological feat of the highest order. This process has potential to play a key role in the transformation of the energy industry.”