- Growth in solar and wind power generation demanding sustainable solutions for seasonal energy storage
- Large underground gas storage facilities already safe and reliable
- Power to gas technology enables conversion of surplus electricity into hydrogen or methane – Underground Sun Storage project to look into storability of hydrogen (as an additive to natural gas and synthetic methane in pore reservoirs)
Vienna, April 23,2014: For the first time in Austria, a research project will investigate the possibility of storing wind and solar power at a former gas field. The storage project is based on power to gas technology, which converts electricity generated in this way into a mixture of methane and hydrogen. The big advantage of this approach is the fact that large quantities of gas can be transported safely and out of sight via existing underground infrastructure, and held in environmentally friendly natural gas storage facilities that are also already in place.
Solar and wind power output is erratic because of changing weather conditions, meaning that generation cannot be adjusted in response to demand as is the case with conventional power stations. In some parts of Europe, such as the north of Austria’s Burgenland province, the amount of power generated by wind farms is already well in excess of demand on windy days. With wind and solar generating capacity growing fast, energy storage is becoming an increasingly pressing issue. And even Austria’s pumped storage plants in the Alps are no longer sufficient to meet this need.
Power to gas has been widely discussed as a potential solution to the storage problem for some time. The technology uses surplus solar and wind power to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen can then either be directly injected into the gas grid, or converted into methane – the main constituent of natural gas – by means of a methanation process using carbon dioxide. At present direct hydrogen admixture is the more economic option, due to its higher efficiency and the shortage of suitable sources of carbon dioxide. However, up to now there has been no research into the effects of hydrogen on the storage capacity employed by natural gas infrastructure – the underground storage facilities.
An Austrian consortium led by RAG has taken up this issue, and is now set to investigate underground storage of a mixture of hydrogen and synthetic methane. The partners developed a research project that was designated as a lead project by Austria’s Climate and Energy Fund after the first call for contributions to the e!mission.at programme in 2012, and has attracted a funding commitment. Implementation will start when the necessary approvals have been obtained. Following preliminary investigations, storage testing will be carried out in situ at a natural storage facility. The research project should be completed in 2016.
The other members of the consortium are the University of Leoben; the Department for Agrobiotechnology, IFA-Tulln of the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna; the Energy Institute at the Johannes Kepler University Linz; Verbund; and Axiom Angewandte Prozesstechnik GmbH.
For further information visit: www.underground-sun-storage.at
Rohöl-Aufsuchungs Aktiengesellschaft (RAG)
tel: +43 (0)50724 5448