Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research DIFFER PO Box 6336, 5600 HH Eindhoven, The Netherlands
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Published online: 27 August 2015
The need for storage of renewable energy (RE) generated by photovoltaic, concentrated solar and wind arises from the fact that supply and demand are ill-matched both geographically and temporarily. This already causes problems of overcapacity and grid congestion in countries where the fraction of RE exceeds the 20% level. A system approach is needed, which focusses not only on the energy source, but includes conversion, storage, transport, distribution, use and, last but not least, the recycling of waste. Furthermore, there is a need for more flexibility in the energy system, rather than relying on electrification, integration with other energy systems, for example the gas network, would yield a system less vulnerable to failure and better adapted to requirements. For example, long-term large-scale storage of electrical energy is limited by capacity, yet needed to cover weekly to seasonal demand. This limitation can be overcome by coupling the electricity net to the gas system, considering the fact that the Dutch gas network alone has a storage capacity of 552 TWh, sufficient to cover the entire EU energy demand for over a month. This lecture explores energy storage in chemicals bonds. The focus is on chemicals other than hydrogen, taking advantage of the higher volumetric energy density of hydrocarbons, in this case methane, which has an approximate 3.5 times higher volumetric energy density. More importantly, it allows the ready use of existing gas infrastructure for energy storage, transport and distribution. Intermittent wind electricity generated is converted into synthetic methane, the Power to Gas (P2G) scheme, by splitting feedstock CO2 and H2O into synthesis gas, a mixture of CO and H2. Syngas plays a central role in the synthesis of a range of hydrocarbon products, including methane, diesel and dimethyl ether. The splitting is accomplished by innovative means; plasmolysis and high-temperature solid oxygen electrolysis. A CO2-neutral fuel cycle is established by powering the conversion step by renewable energy and recapturing the CO2 emitted after combustion, ultimately from the surrounding air to cover emissions from distributed source. Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) coupled to P2G thus creates a CO2-neutral energy system based on synthetic hydrocarbon fuel. It would enable a circular economy where the carbon cycle is closed by recovering the CO2 emitted after reuse of synthetic hydrocarbon fuel. The critical step, technically as well as economically, is the conversion of feedstock CO2/H2O into syngas rather than the capture of CO2 from ambient air.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2015
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