[I'MTech] Power-to-gas, when hydrogen electrifies research

Hydrogen is presented as an energy vector of the future. In a power-to-gas system, it serves as an intermediary for the transformation of electricity into synthetic methane. The success of this energy solution depends heavily on its production cost, so IMT researchers are working on optimizing the different processes for a more competitive power-to-gas solution.

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Minerve: a demonstrator for research purposes

In order to gain the knowledge needed to make the transition to power-to-gas, the Minerve demonstrator was installed in 2018 on the Chantrerie campus north of Nantes. “The platform is first and foremost a research tool that meets the needs of experimentation and data collection. The results are intended to help develop simulation models for power-to-gas technologies,” explains Pascaline Pré, a process engineering researcher at IMT Atlantique. Equipped with solar panels and a wind turbine, Minerve also has an electrolyzer dedicated to the production of hydrogen converted, with CO2 in cylinders, into methane. This is then redistributed to a fuel distribution station for natural gas vehicles (CNG) and used for mobility.  The next step is to integrate CO2 capture technology from the combustion fumes of the site’s heating network boilers to replace the cylinders.

Pascaline Pré

Carbon dioxide is very stable in the air. Turning it into useful products is therefore difficult. Pascaline Pré’s team is developing a new process to capture this gas by absorption using a solvent. The gas collected is purified, dried, compressed and sent to the methane plant. However, some hurdles need to be overcome in order to optimize this approach: “Solvent regeneration consumes a lot of heat. It would be possible to improve the energy efficiency of the device by developing an electrified microwave heating system,” explains the researcher. This concept would also reduce the size of the facilities needed for this process for a future industrial installation.

In the long term, Minerve should also serve as a basis for the study of many issues in the Carnot HyTrend project, which brings together part of the French scientific community to look at hydrogen. Within three years, initial recommendations on the different technologies (electrolysis, methanation, CO2 capture, etc.) will be published to improve the existing situation, as well as studies on the risks and environmental impacts of power-to-gas.

Video of the Minerve demonstrator

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Published on 07.12.2020

by Pierre-Hervé VAILLANT