The IET Institute for Energy Technology of the HSR Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil celebrated the inauguration of their new research plant on October the 4th 2018. The aim of this new plant is to increase the efficiency of the Power-to-Methane technology in order to reduce production costs of synthetic natural gas (SNG) in the Megawatt (MW) scale.

Companies implement new technologies if the application is financially worthwhile and the earnings are even or higher than from conventional technologies. The conversion of renewable electrical energy to the chemical energy carrier synthetic natural gas (SNG) is already technical feasible today. However, the production costs have to be competitive to conventional production in order to achieve investments in the equipment.

Energy Independence and civil Energy Transition

For the member of the HEPP Steering Committee, the National Politian of the right wing party SVP Barbara Keller-Inhelder, two aspects are important in the project: The environmentally friendly energy supply and the dimension for the security policy: "Energy that is produced by local people in their own country is highly desirable. The independence of the Swiss energy supply is relevant for the security of the country. "said Keller-Inhelder at the inauguration.

Another member of the HEPP Steering Committee is the National Politician Martin Landolt from BDP, a party of the political middle. Despite Landolt and Keller-Inhelder often disagree on energy politics, both are united with their commitment for this research project, because "it includes all factors of a civil energy transition: politics, business and research." As a technical layperson Landolt sees "meaningful solutions for the energy transition being developed."

According to Daniela Decurtins, Director of the Association of the Swiss Gas Industry (VSG) and member of the Steering Committee, "ambitious and internationally connected projects such as the HEPP project make an environmentally friendly energy supply possible and the HSR research facility makes a holistic contribution to the Energy transition."

Daniel Böhner from the project partner Audi AG adds that the production of renewable fuels with Power-to-Methane technology is not a competition to electric cars, but a "necessary complement." Because to achieve the climate goals, electric mobility will not be sufficient.

Start of system integration

With the inauguration of the demonstration plant HEPP, the system integration of the single components started. The HEPP team plans to produce SNG in January 2019 for the first time. The HEPP project is realized together with EU funding, industrial companies, academic partners and national associations.

HEPP Project Partners

New research facility for higher efficiency

An obstacle for a large-scale industrial spread of the Power-to-Methane technology is the low efficiency of the technology. The efficiency is described with the ratio between the electrical input for the process and the energy in the final product, the SNG. The project HEPP was started to increase the efficiency of the Power-to-Methane technology and to demonstrate this technology in a near-industrial setting. The project team developed and build a 10kW demonstrator where a range of innovative technologies will be tested. The concept of the plant combines a SOE (Solid Oxide Electrolyser) and a catalytic methanation reactor. The waste heat from the methanation process is collected by a thermal oil circuit and is used to raise the steam for the SOE. "This leads to an efficiency increase of up to 10 percentage points to around 70% for industrial sized plants in the Megawatt (MW) scale", project manager Dr. Luiz Carlos R. de Sousa said. With this technological development, the cost and the environmental impact of the SNG product are reduced.

Driving natural gas driven cars

At the inauguration of the new Power-to-Methane plant, HSR gave a deep insight into the current state of the plant design. In addition to guided tours at the new research facility, the interior of a natural gas car engine could be investigated and the participants were able to drive natural gas driven cars.

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