One of the objectives of HYPOS, the Hydrogen Power Storage & Solutions East Germany initiative founded in 2013, is to establish a renewable hydrogen economy in middle and east Germany. The initiative identified the setup and expansion of the associated infrastructure as an essential prerequisite to achieve that aim. The region offers already available structures throughout (e.g., pipelines, underground caverns) and great renewable energy potential. According to HYPOS’ roadmap, the first salt cavern is intended to start storing hydrogen for grid balancing in 2026. Energy is to be supplied by water electrolysis. Currently, 12 research projects have been dedicated to the topic; the number is expected to rise to 24 by mid-2018. These projects cover the entire value chain, from production and transport to storage and utilization. The pipeline network is thought to be the main link between them.
Within HYPOS, four projects are conducting research on pipeline networks. H2-PIMS examines the use of hydrogen-rich gases in existing natural gas pipelines. A closely associated endeavor is H2-MEM, whose aim is to allow for a cost-effective separation of hydrogen-natural gas mixtures at exit points of a network. H2-Netz, on the other hand, researches polymeric materials for use in an energy distribution grid across the Bitterfeld-Wolfen region should it become necessary to build new hydrogen-only lines. During this project, a network connect to Linde’s hydrogen pipeline was created to offer several linkages for energy-consuming applications. And H2-Home is working on a fuel cell CHP unit that is to be connected to this trial network for a first demonstration of capabilities.
H2-Netz: New distribution grid design
DBI GUT, TÜV Süd, Mitnetz Gas, Rehau and HTWK Leipzig have established a collaboration with the intent to design an innovative H2 distribution infrastructure that could become the basis for setting up and expanding a low-cost but wide-ranging pipeline hydrogen supply network. The joint project was launched last November and has a total budget of EUR 3.8 million. The overall objective is to demonstrate and test a distribution grid consisting primarily of polymer pipelines. Several materials will be used throughout the network to test their feasibility in a real-life environment.
H2-Home: How to design a CHP fuel cell system
As part of this project, a consortium consisting of inhouse engineering, TU Freiberg, Enasys, Fraunhofer IMWS and DBI GUT is developing a residential 4.8 kWel CHP system equipped with a PEM fuel cell. The aim is to increase electrical efficiency to above 50 percent and total efficiency to more than 95 percent. The consortium is not only designing the CHP installation, but evaluating its economic feasibility and market potential in building energy supply. Both Fraunhofer IMWS and TU Freiberg have already been able to provide preliminary findings and a safety certificate.
According to the simulation, hydrogen supply offers a cost advantage of less than 10 cents per kilowatt-hour compared to other heating systems, such as gas engine CHP, wood pellet boilers, heat pumps and gas boilers combined with a solar thermal system. For there to be any benefit, the on-site consumption of generated electrical energy must exceed 80 percent at 5,500 full-load hours or more. Transport costs were kept constant, assuming a connection to a pipeline. The preliminary findings underline that hydrogen can be an economically sensible solution in the building sector, given the right circumstances. More research and analyses are underway .
H2-PIMS: Toward an H2 economy
The Pipeline Integrity Management System research project, or PIMS for short, is looking at the safety of natural gas grids operated with hydrogen-rich mixtures. The focus of the project is the identification of possible hydrogen-induced damage. Taking into account an installation’s pipeline materials, typical types of preexisting damage and current operating conditions, the project partners perform comprehensive tests, e.g., for degradation resistance, on selected critical materials. The results obtained from those tests will be used to devise new evaluation methods to safeguard against operational failures. An additional objective is to draft a roadmap detailing how to make parts of the existing natural gas grid suitable for transporting hydrogen-rich gases as well as pure hydrogen.
H2-MEM: How to separate CH4-H2 mixtures
This project to develop carbon-based membranes for separating hydrogen-natural gas mixtures has reached its first milestone. Scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems have succeeded in designing several samples that show an ideal H2/CH4 permselectivity of up to 225. The researchers had set the bar at 200.
Author: Alexander Spieß, HYPOS e.V., Leipzig, Germany