Empa wants to build methanation plant

“Power to gas” is a key concept when it comes to storing alternative energy. Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Materials Science & Technology (Empa) have now succeeded in further optimising this process.

The principle behind power to gas is to convert short-term excess electricity from photovoltaic systems and wind turbines into hydrogen. Combined with the greenhouse gas CO2, renewable hydrogen can be used to produce methane, which can be stored and distributed in the natural gas network.

The chemical reaction produces not only methane, but also water. A catalyst is required to bring about the reaction of CO2 with hydrogen. Empa researchers have now combined a nanoscale nickel catalyst with a zeolite. These crystalline aluminosilicates are able to absorb water molecules and release them again when heated. The result is a higher yield of pure methane and a more efficient catalytic process.

The process already works in the laboratory setting. Empa researchers are now looking for project partners in order to build a methanation plant on a larger scale and use it as a pilot project.

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