Creating a largely carbon-neutral society will be almost impossible without the use of green hydrogen. The energy-rich gas will not only be used in vehicles, but also in gas heaters and combined heat and power plants in the future, with the existing gas network lending itself to the transportation and storage of hydrogen. As almost every second household in Germany is connected to this network to supply energy for heating, the current infrastructure could be used to distribute hydrogen as an admixture to natural gas, or synthetic methane generated from hydrogen, across the entire country. The natural gas network also provides significant storage capacities, with 220 TWh of gas storage capacity compared to just 0.04 TWh possible in power stores. In this project, researchers from the German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water (DVGW – Deutscher Verein des Gas- und Wasserfachs) and from the Institute for Internal Combustion Engines (IFKM) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology are investigating how much hydrogen can be admixed to the methane in the gas network and how the existing gas network would have to be modified, or what a redesign would require. A project partner is also investigating the economic viability.
» Green hydrogen will make a significant contribution to sustainable mobility, whether as a pure component, or processed into a carbon-based fuel such as synthetic methane. «
The future role of gas and hydrogen in a low-carbon economy will be reflected in the gas market design, as it must be set up for greater integration between gas and electricity markets. It should therefore promote cooperation with other sectors such as transport and support innovations such as renewable gases and power-to-gas technology. On the way to a hydrogen economy, a cooperation project between FVV and DVGW is investigating how the gas can be fed into the existing natural gas infrastructure.
Potential of the gas infrastructure in Germany (2020)
In power-to-gas plants, electricity from renewable sources is used to generate hydrogen or methane - which can then be stored and transported. The »green gases« can be used via the existing infrastructure: 510,000 km of high-, medium- and low-pressure pipelines and 850 filling stations are available. The total storage capacity in the German gas grid and gas infrastructure is 220 TWh. The infrastructure can already transport up to 20% hydrogen.
Hydrogen test bench at the Institute for Internal Combustion Engines (IFKM | KIT)
Hydrogen is viewed as one of the most important pillars of a sustainable energy supply. In power-to-gas plants, green hydrogen is already being produced from renewable sources, albeit still in small amounts. In the future, hydrogen is to be imported, for example from North Africa. However, the gas has different properties to methane, which means that the gas infrastructure has to be suitable for higher concentrations of H2. The same applies for heaters and combustion engines, as the mixture of hydrogen and natural gas is a completely new energy carrier for consumers and may not be compatible with older heaters or engines.
» Carbon-neutral mobility with combustion engines is a highly feasible solution. Research projects like this one bring us closer to this goal. «
Researchers at the Institute for Internal Combustion Engines (IFKM) within the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are performing a risk and status analysis. Hydrogen is extremely flammable and corrosive and attacks both rubber and plastic components, as well as high alloy steels. The effects of different hydrogen concentrations on the operation of combustion engines are being investigated, as well as any required technical modifications. With regard to the gas network, researchers from the DVGW are analysing factors including the compatibility of the gas network, how hydrogen can be separated from natural gas at a filling station and the anticipated system costs for different scenarios.
» In order to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from the mobility sector, we need not only battery electric vehicles but also other technology options. This project contributes to broadening the spectrum of feasible solutions. «
The project will be completed in December 2021. Provided that the corresponding political framework is in place, the researchers estimate that a sizeable hydrogen production infrastructure could be built up in Germany within five years. This would enable natural gas-powered vehicles to be filled with the H2-CH4 mixture, provided that the vehicle tanks are approved for the higher H2 concentrations. The hydrogen could also be separated from the natural gas at the filling station and then stored. As such, it would also be available for fuel cell vehicles.
As more energy can be stored in the gas network than in power stores and new power lines would have to be built to transport the same amount of energy, the transition is anticipated to be beneficial from an economic standpoint, too. The project partner Frontier Economics is performing detailed calculations in this regard.
2019-12-31 to 2021-12-30
Dr. Dietrich Gerstein
DVGW Deutscher Verein des Gas- und Wasserfaches e.V.
Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Kramer
Ford-Werke GmbH John Andrews Development Center
1 | DVGW Research Unit at the Engler-Bunte-Institut of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
2 | DBI - Gastechnologisches Institut gGmbH
1 | Institute for Thermal Energy Technology and Safety (ITES) - Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Head of research:
Dr. Th. Walter Tromm (komm.)
2 | Institute of Internal Combustion Engines (IFKM) - Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Head of research:
Prof. Dr. sc. techn. Thomas Koch
Research & Technology Performers
Research Association for Combustion Engines eV
Lyoner Strasse 18
60528 Frankfurt am Main
T +49 69 6603 1345