A new, disruptive technology has the potential to decarbonize the transportation sector – an otherwise notoriously difficult task. The technology, which is known as power-to-gas, is being developed and tested in a project called BioCat.
In the BioCat Project, the company Electrochaea – together with a group of partners – is demonstrating an innovative approach to power-to-gas, using an advanced biocatalytic system for the conversion of hydrogen and carbon dioxide to methane, the principal component of natural gas. This technology allows wind and solar energy to be stored indefinitely in existing natural gas pipelines, and the transportation sector is predicted to be among the first adopters to use the renewable gas as a sustainable fuel. As an exclusive BioCat partner from the automotive industry, Audi recognizes the potential of the new technology that is more advanced than existing power-to-gas concepts.
“Audi’s involvement in the BioCat project validates the merit of the power-to-gas technology concept and the promise of biological methanation. It’s also a strong market signal, confirming our view that the transportation sector will be a key market for renewable gas generated via power-to-gas,” states BioCat Project Manager, Dominic Hofstetter.
The current energy sources for transportation, including liquid hydrocarbons such as diesel and gasoline, have very high energy density, which allows cars to travel far and refuel quickly. However, they emit carbon dioxide, a major driver of climate change. As a response to this and other energy-related challenges, the BioCat consortium has developed a biocatalytic power-to-gas concept that has many technical and economical advantages compared to conventional power-to-gas approaches. The BioCat project will lift the technology to market-readiness by the beginning of 2016.
This energy storage technology has the potential to transform the energy systems by building a physical bridge between the power and gas infrastructure, thereby creating a renewable fuel supply chain. Being a pioneer in the promotion of sustainable mobility solutions, Audi sees great benefits from participating in the BioCat Project. Dr. Hagen Seifert, Head of Environmental Assessments, Renewable Energies and New Materials at Audi AG elaborates:
“Audi’s participation in the project is a reflection of the company’s long-term strategic interest in building up a renewable fuel supply chain. The company considers biological methanation as a potentially disruptive technology with the ability to significantly reduce the cost of production for renewable gas. Therefore, we see Audi’s vision for CO2-neutral mobility and the sustainable fuel production provided by the BioCat Project as an ideal strategic fit.”
Managing the world’s largest 6 MW power-to-gas facility, Audi is already using renewable gas as fuel – the so-called Audi e-gas. However, their participation in the BioCat project reflects the next chapter in Audi’s vision of being the driver of the next energy revolution, as the BioCat technology is an advancement over existing solutions.
The next step for green transportation
Until now, electric vehicles charged with renewable electricity have been at the centre of the decarbonisation efforts in the transportation sector. The two major drawbacks of electric vehicles, however, is that they cannot travel very far with a single charge and that they take several hours to recharge. Compressed natural gas vehicles running on renewable natural gas are able to match electric vehicles on a lifecycle emissions basis, since only renewable energy, CO2 and water are used for the production of the natural gas fuel (of course the electric vehicle also has to be charged with renewable energy). Consequently, the power-to-gas technology tested in the BioCat Project offers an alternative route to low-carbon mobility.
Vehicles fuelled by compressed natural gas (CNG) are technologically mature and available in major vehicle markets at a price that is almost competitive with gasoline and diesel cars. Due to the chemical similarity of fossil natural gas and renewable gas from P2G, the latter can use the delivery, fuelling, and vehicle infrastructure that is already in place. Furthermore, renewable gas is very suitable for long-range vehicles, which cannot be electrified, and as such it represents one of the few options for trucks and marine vessels to switch to a sustainable fuel.
About the BioCat project
The overall objective of the BioCat Project is to design, engineer, construct and test a commercial-scale power-to-gas facility at a wastewater treatment plant in Denmark and demonstrate its capability to provide energy storage services to the Danish energy system. The project, which is funded på ForskEL, brings together some of Europe’s foremost leaders in the field of low-carbon energy systems to demonstrate the technical and economic potential of a cutting-edge energy storage technology. More information is available at www.biocat-project.com.
About the power-to-gas technology
Power-to-Gas (P2G) is an innovative approach to energy storage. By converting electrical energy to chemical energy in the form of methane, the vast existing natural gas infrastructure can be leveraged for storage and transportation of renewable energy.