White Paper on the Perspectives of Power-to-Product technologies in Switzerland
Against the background of a growing share of intermittent renewables, such as wind and solar, the challenges of temporal and spatial grid balancing will increase in the future. Combined energy and storage technologies, such as Power-to-Product (P2X), represent promising solutions for this multi-dimensional balancing challenge.
Power-to-Product technologies not only increase the energy system’s flexibility, they can also connect the electricity sector with other sectors of the economy in a new way (i.e. the transport and industry sector). Although there is a host of information available on P2X technologies, the information is typically dispersed and it has not been systematically analyzed in a Swiss context.
The objective of this project is to collect the major existing P2X knowledge and to provide a synthesis and evaluation for the Swiss energy market. The gas market, the mobility sector and the electricity market are specifically investigated with the aim to derive a technical, economic and environmental assessment of P2X in the overall energy system.
The result of this joint SCCER activity is expected to serve as a guideline for policy makers to reach the emission targets and the power supply targets set under the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050.
More than just a review on Power-to-Product technologies
The joint SCCER activity involves the review of published work over the recent years on various aspects of P2X technologies and the compilation and synthesis of the key findings of this literature review in a White Paper. The White Paper intends to capture the technical, economic and environmental dimensions of this technology, as well as market and systems integration aspects including legal and regulatory matters concerned. A total of five SCCERs (SCCER HaE, SCCER CREST, SCCER BIOSWEET, SCCER Mobility, and SCCER FURIES) are involved in order to cover this broad range of aspects in one White Paper.
A very important task within the scope of the project is the dissemination of the White Paper. For a broad circulation inside and outside academia, the White Paper will be published as open access and a media conference will be held. The release of the White Paper is scheduled for December 2018.
The great grid-balancing
The electricity grid is designed to safely handle peak power demand and supply. Today, we observe a trend towards higher shares of renewable electricity and an active participation of prosumers in the grid – a prosumer is both a power consumer and producer. As a result, the load of the electric grid becomes less predictable and less stable. This effect is further intensified by a possible increase in electricity consumption due to electricity-based mobility. As a result, spatial and temporal grid balancing will become crucial in future. Temporal balancing needs arise due to the mismatch between renewable-based electricity production and demand, while spatial balancing needs arise due to possible distance mismatch between the location of electricity production and the consumption, respectively. In addition, the increase of solar and wind based electricity production may happen more and more during periods, when the electricity cannot be fully sold on the market. In such cases, solar and wind power generators have to be throttled. This is already the case in Germany, where 4.7 TWh of renewable electricity (mainly onshore wind power plants) was throttled in 2015, causing compensation costs of 478 Mio EUR.
Challenges of Power-to-Product technologies, which will be addressed in the White Paper
- What are the present and future conversion efficiencies of the individual process steps (i.e. for the individual products) and of commercial applications?
- How do reliability, lifetime, low maintenance, etc. vary across several components and configurations of P2X plants?
- What is the cost of the various products and how competitive are they compared to alternative sources?
- What are reliable and environmentally friendly sources of CO2?
- Are the economics of P2X systems affected by the share of intermittent renewable energy sources in Switzerland?
- Can P2X be a reliable source of chemical feedstock and provide the quantities needed?
- Which codes and standards for operating permission are required; and are the output products considered to be renewable (CO2 levies)?
- What is the optimum system configuration with respect to specific product and application?
- Can Power-to-Gas technology coupled with the gas network provide a seasonal storage option? Is it ever feasible in the Swiss energy system?
Power-to-Product technologies in the White Paper, which will be addressed in the White Paper
In the joint SCCER activity, the investigated P2X pathways extend to energy conversion technologies that produce synthetic gases, fuels or energy feedstock products using an electro-chemical conversion process. There is a variety of energy outputs that can be produced with such technologies. The most prominently discussed option is methane produced in Power-to-Gas systems.
Power-to-Product technologies transform electricity, preferably generated from renewable energy at periods of low demand, into hydrogen via water electrolysis. Hydrogen can be used directly as a fuel for several energy conversion technologies. Hydrogen can be efficiently re-electrified in hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells, used as an alternative fuel in a de-carbonized transport sector using fuel cell electric vehicles or directly injected in limited amounts into the natural gas grid, using the already available natural gas infrastructure.
Alternatively to the direct use, hydrogen can be processed in a second step after the electrolysis together with CO2 from a suitable source to produce synthetic natural gas (SNG) or other hydrocarbons (i.e. methanol or higher value hydrocarbons). One example could be the injection of renewable hydrogen in biomass conversion processes in order to increase the efficiency of the biomass conversion to produce biogas.
In case SNG is produced, it opens the possibility of directly connecting the electricity grid with the gas grid, i.e. being able to shift renewable excess electricity via chemical processes into the gas grid, which can act as large chemical energy storage. Therefore, the available natural gas infrastructure can function to provide solutions to resolve both the temporal and spatial mismatch. Synthetic natural gas can be used either for re-electrification or by the energy end-user for heating/cooling purposes as well as alternative fuel in the transportation sector. Depending on the source of CO2 with which the SNG is produced, this conversion process can contribute to the decarbonization of the energy demand side.
Additionally to the conversion routes mentioned before, hydrogen, as well as SNG and other hydrocarbons, can be used in the chemical industry as a feedstock, reducing the carbon footprint of the industrial production.
The various conversion pathways of electricity into fuels and feedstocks, which also allow for storage of energy, can serve multiple purposes with the advantages of increasing the energy system’s flexibility and enhancing the ability to establish new links between different markets, for instance the connection of the electricity market with markets in the heating, transport and chemical industry sectors.
The White Paper addresses the following P2X technologies:
- Electrolyzer technology to produce hydrogen
- Methanation technologies with different product inputs (i.e. bioenergy, CO2 from industry) with and without Carbondioxid Capture and Storage
- Storage technologies for hydrogen and SNG
- Technologies for injecting hydrogen or SNG into the natural gas grid
- Selected hydrogen technologies in the energy end-use sectors (transport, industry)
- Technologies to produce synthetic liquid fuels, mainly to be used as fuel in the transport sector or as feedstock in industry (methanol and ethanol)
- Stationary technologies for re-electrification of hydrogen (fuel cell technologies)
- Temporal and spatial resolved electricity flow analysis
- Analysis of the CO2 reduction potential for several end-user (i.e. mobility, re-electrification, industrial products)
- Feasibility of implementation of P2X technology as a mid-term and/or long-term energy storage option
- Applicability of P2X technology in place of the grid upgrade/expansion, both in transmission and distribution levels, especially in light of emergence of renewable power intermittency and over-generation.
- Feasibility of P2X technology as an ancillary service provider
- Compilation of case studies of P2X technology in Switzerland with an aim to assess its multi-aspect feasibility in future.
Tom Kober, Coordinator of the joint SCCER activity White Paper P2X
Jörg Roth, Coordinator of the SCCER HaE (Leading House of the joint SCCER activity)