The European research project on hydrogen separation "Pilot plant for testing membranes for separating natural gas and hydrogen" is entering the decisive phase: The installation of the test plant in Prenzlau is complete and the test equipment is connected to the hydrogen and natural gas supply. Thus, the tests can begin with different membranes for gas separation.
The aim of the project is to find out how hydrogen can be separated again from natural gas-hydrogen mixtures using different membranes. The local power-to-gas plant from ENERTRAG supplies green hydrogen generated using wind power. For the envisaged tests, this is added to the natural gas from the ONTRAS network via the existing feed-in system with a proportion of up to 20 percent by volume.
“After Corona-related delays of only six months in setting up the pilot plant, we are now starting the series of tests originally planned for the beginning of 2021. We are very pleased that we can now start with the heart of the project,”says project manager Udo Lubenau from DBI Gas- und Umwelttechnik GmbH (DBI). In the coming weeks, the test series will be prepared with various membrane types for gas separation and a final on-site inspection will be carried out by the TÜV. The actual test series will begin in August 2021.
The pilot plant is a joint project of DBI Gas- und Umwelttechnik GmbH, ONTRAS Gastransport GmbH (ONTRAS), the RICE research institute of the French GRTgaz S.A. (GRTgaz), the Mitteldeutsche Netzgesellschaft Gas mbH (MITNETZ), and the German Gas and Water Association e. V. (DVGW) and the associated partner ENERTRAG AG (ENERTRAG). It is investigated which membranes are best suited for the recovery of hydrogen, which quantities can be separated from the gas flow and what degree of purity this hydrogen achieves. The findings of this research project are of crucial importance for the configuration of a future hydrogen economy in which hydrogen and methane are to be transported together. For pure hydrogen and methane applications, it is crucial that gas mixtures can be separated in the future thanks to membrane technology, since individual gas applications do not allow every hydrogen admixture. The Prenzalau pilot plant is the first to subject a future gas infrastructure to a practical suitability test.
“The results of our joint project have the potential to make an important contribution to the development of the future hydrogen infrastructure. If everything works as planned, a European Hydrogen Backbone as a connecting link between generators, storage facilities, centres of consumption and import points could be joined by regional mixed networks that supply both hydrogen and natural gas customers with a single pipeline”, says Ralph Bahke, ONTRAS CEO.
Frank Gröschl, Head of Technology and Innovation Management at DVGW, adds: “The gas network with a total length of around 500,000 kilometers will be able to transport and distribute climate-neutral hydrogen on a large scale in the medium term. The technical regulations of the DVGW are already being adapted and will be 100 percent H2-ready by 2026. When hydrogen is added to the natural gas network, the membrane technology is particularly relevant for applications that require a certain gas quality."
“In future, hydrogen will cross national borders. Our cross-border collaboration is a key to success”, emphasizes Pierre Blouet, Director of RICE (GRTgaz research centre). He adds: “I am very excited about the opportunity for RICE to build on its relationships with other European network operators as part of this partnership. It is important that we work together to overcome the many hurdles to the success of a European, green hydrogen economy in order to speed up the reduction of carbon emissions.”
ENERTRAG CEO Jörg Müller relies on the potential of this practical test: “So far, technical regulations have prevented us from feeding more than two percent green hydrogen from our hybrid power plant into the gas network. We are confident that the membrane technology tests will be successful and that the existing regulations will then be adapted. This would be tantamount to a revolution in the transport and storage of hydrogen from renewable energies, because at least ten times the amount could be fed in.”