2 September 2015

RWE tests innovative energy storage solution – Company starts power-to-gas plant with extremely high utilisation rate

NRW Minister of Economics Garrelt Duin: “This process has potential to play a key role in the transformation of the energy industry”

On Monday, RWE officially launched its power-to-gas plant in the NRW location of Ibbenbüren. The state-of-the-art plant is part of new system that, for the first time ever, links together the supply of local electricity, natural gas and district heating. Any superfluous electricity from renewable sources is converted into hydrogen so it can be stored within the natural gas network. It can then be recalled from there at a later date for use in electricity production that boasts an extremely high utilisation rate. This power-to-gas process is seen as one of the key technologies for tomorrow’s energy supply.

Many representatives from government, industry, the energy sector and the scientific community came to Ibbenbüren to attend the official launch. Prominent guests included Garrelt Duin, NRW Minister of Economics, Energy, Industry, SMEs and the Skilled Trades, Dr Markus Pieper, member of the European Parliament, the Mayor of Ibbenbüren, Heinz Steingröver and Dr Heinrich Dornbusch, CEO of the NRW KlimaExpo initiative.

“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”, said NRW Minister of Economics, Duin.

“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 percent of the country’s power needs – or almost double the current rate. 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” said Dr Arndt Neuhaus, CEO of RWE Deutschland.

“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. But that is not all – with a utilisation rate of 86 percent, this power-to-gas plant here in Ibbenbüren is the most efficient of its kind in Germany”, said Dr Joachim Schneider, CTO of RWE Deutschland.

“Hot on the heels of the launch of the Grid4EU project – the intelligent distribution system not far from here in the Münsterland location of Reken – this is a further key step on the road to transformation of the European energy industry. It is something the region can justifiably feel proud of”, added EU Member of Parliament Dr Markus Pieper.

The Mayor of Ibbenbüren, Heinz Steingröver was equally delighted: “We are very glad that RWE Deutschland chose Ibbenbüren as the location for its power-to-gas plant, which makes us part of an exciting research project. It is also an appropriate expression of our many years of cooperation in the spirit of public-private partnership.”

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. The combined heat and power generation system used there also leads to much better power utilisation thanks to this new system solution. The power-to-gas plant of RWE in Ibbenbüren has a rated power output of 150 kilowatts and creates hydrogen under 14-bar pressure.

As part of the commissioning ceremony, the NRW KlimaExpo initiative lauded the plant as a driving force in the battle to combat climate change. It thus qualifies as one of the recognised projects of the regional initiative, which is designed to harness additional efforts to combat climate change and draw attention to the technological and economic potential of North Rhine-Westphalia in this field. NRW Minister of Economics Garrelt Duin and NRW KlimaExpo CEO Dr Heinrich Dornbusch both presented the highly sought-after certificate to RWE. “We are pleased that our power-to-gas plant has become part of the NRW KlimaExpo initiative. The ability to decouple power generation from the time when it is consumed is hugely important to the transformation of our energy industry. What is being trialled here is a power storage technology that will play a key role in our future networks. It will improve our ability to integrate renewables within the grid and also help combat climate change”, said Dr Heinrich Dornbusch.

Source: RWE AG, press release, 2015-08-17.

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