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Pascale, PAULUS

KU Leuven

Energy storage and Synthetic Natural Gas

tion to the energy storage problem. Nevertheless, energy
ith the upswing of multiple renewable energy storage is crucial for the integration of renewables elec-
sources in the total energy production, the tricity sources for both ecological and economical rea-
main challenge for the energy future is to in- sons.
tegrate and maximize the use of this green capacity in the
most sustainable, secure and efficient way. Not only new Synthetic Natural Gas
technologies need to be developed, but the current sys-
tem also needs to be adapted for this additional and typi- SNG is one of the most promising technologies in that
cally unpredictable load. Therefore, the distribution grid field and falls also under the term Power-to-Gas (P2G)
must be entirely rethought, the optimal mix of energy technique.
sources needs to be found and more energy storage ca-
When the wind blows or the sun shines, the production
pacity needs to be installed. In this article the specific
of renewable energy is high, and can surpass the predict-
option of Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) for energy storage
ed demand. Nevertheless, instead being wasted, this
will be discussed.
renewable electricity can be used to split water (H2O)
into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) by electrolysis. The
Importance of energy storage
produced O2 can be released in the atmosphere or used
to industrial ends. H2 is another option to store energy,
In a world where global warming plays an increasing role,
but much more flammable thus more dangerous than
the share of renewable energy sources in the total elec-
methane (CH4). CH4 can then be obtained starting from
tricity production has grown exponentially for the past
CO2 and the earlier produced H2 by methanation. [3]
few years. The consumer demand needs to be fulfilled at
any moment at a reasonable price. Because of its lack of Besides, CH4 can be transported in the already existing
natural resources, the European Union is extremely ener- natural gas network when adjusted to natural gas norms.
gy dependent on Russia and the Middle-East for natural Storage of CH4 in tanks is realizable in the long term, as
gas and oil respectively. [2] shown in Fig 1.The CO2 balance of this technology is zero,
because the CO2 produced by combustion of the me-
Renewable energy sources like offshore wind and solar
thane can be reused to produce the SNG.
power are options, but the production depends strongly
on the weather and is not able to follow the demand But one of the main disadvantages of this technology is
peaks. This stresses the need for flexible and high capaci- that the end-efficiency of the process purely for electrici-
tive energy storage technologies, in order to fill the gaps ty generation is rather low (about 36%). Using CHP and
in production of green energy at an appropriate time of heat recuperation, the efficiency can rise up to 55% (see
the day, week or year. [1] Fig 2).
Renewables only are not able to cover the whole energy
Economic analysis
demand of European Union. The more energy sources
available, the lower the dependency on other countries
When the production of electricity surpasses the demand
and their political situation, and the higher the likelihood
and cannot be sold to neighboring countries, the excess
is that energy can be provided to the consumer. Peak
of electricity is being wasted. This potentially useful en-
load and unpredicted demand deviations require very
ergy turns into a zero gain. Storing this electricity by con-
flexible power plants or can be covered by stored energy.
verting it to gas requires an electrolysis plant, a
As shown in Fig 1, batteries offer only a short-term solu-

methanation plant and tanks. The gas network and gas shows that the investment would be of about EUR
turbines exist already. 1500/kW gas output with an interest rate of 9%, and it
would only be commercialized if it is exempted of taxes
This technology is very recent and has mainly been de-
and distribution costs.[8] [9]
veloped in Germany, where the need for energy storage
is the most important. Such a facility got built near
Stuttgart and cost about EUR 3.5 millions. At this point,
burning SNG would be about four times more costly than
Energy storage by production of SNG provides an ecologi-
burning oil. But the commercialization of SNG would re-
cal solution to the long term storage problem. It is easily
duce this price. Car manufacturer Audi has built a 6MW
transportable. It responds to the crucial need of energy
plant in Werlte and is betting on this technology to fuel
storage methods required for the effective integration of
cars and balance the electric network. [6]
renewable energy source. Further commercialization and
In order to measure the economic sustainability of such low taxation can potentially make SNG competitive with
plants, some business models have been developed. A the classic fossil fuels market.
Canadian research predicts a ROI of 14% and a cost for
synthetic gas of about EUR 5.5/GJ. [7] A Danish study

Fig 1: Energy storage methods [4] Fig 2: Efficiency of the process [5]

[1] Wiliam d'haeseleer, Security of Energy Supply, 2009.
[2] Belmans R., Deconinck G., Driesen J., Elektrische Energie Deel 1, p.195-199., Acco Leuven, 2010.
[3] Van den Bulck E., Verbranding, VTK Leuven, 2012.
[4] Agentur für Erneuerbare Energien, Storage Capacity Systems chart, www.unendlich-viel-energie.de
[5] Michael Sterner, Bioenergy and renewable power methane in integrated 100% renewable energy systems,
Kassel university press GmbH, Kassel, 2009.
[6] http://energystoragejournal.com/wind-instrument-power-to-gas-technology/
[7] Power-to-Gas: Technology and Business Model Progress, Daryl Wilson, Hydrogenics, November 2012
[8] Wind to Gas-to-money? Economic perspectives of the Power-to-gas Technology, Fabian Rechert, Master
Thesis, Aalborg University 2012
[9] Renewable energy & Energy Efficieny, Jürgen Schmid, Kassel Universität, 2009