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An alternative solution to the storage: Power-to-Gas - Yazgı Nur Akın

Nowadays, a term is becoming a loadstar in the energy transition era: Power-to-X (PtX). The underlying reason why this term became important is the need for a transition towards carbon-neutral energy sources while storing the electricity as well as meeting the Paris Agreement targets. Germany, in particular, dedicated itself to the clean energy transition attempts thanks to its famous transition process, aka the Energiewende. However, from a general perspective, many European countries aim to increase energy efficiency by improving the use of renewable energy sources, nuclear power (this is not the case for Germany), and carbon capture and storage technologies. And, they believe that one of the effective ways to achieve these targets is the PtX itself.

PtX can be summarized as a new kind of technology that is used for the production of synthetic fuels and raw materials from electrical energy. It means that there is a power conversion into some other form of energy. For example, chemical processes can be used to convert electricity into liquid fuel or gas. These processes are known as Power-to-Liquid (PtL) and Power-to-Gas (PtG). PtG is currently evaluated as a possible solution for the electricity storage problem.

When the sun isn’t shining, and the wind isn’t blowing, the countries run into power supply problems. In contrast, when there is an electricity surplus due to too much sun and wind, unfortunately, this energy goes to waste. It is seen that there is a need for large scale energy storage systems. Today, many electricity suppliers believe that gas can overcome this problem through electrolysis and methanation technologies. Aside from the technical side of this technology, it is thought that PtG can make a significant contribution to industrial needs while causing a tiny carbon footprint. Germany, where renewable sources are becoming more critical day by day, is the pioneer of PtG with more than 30 projects. The USA, Japan, Australia, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland also try to put the integrated energy transition with PtG into action. For example, Japan has planned to use the hydrogen even for the torch during the Olympic Summer-Games, which was postponed because of the COVID-19.

Energy storage comes with an enormous cost, so the countries and suppliers will need to find some ways to make this technology cheaper. Moreover, they will also need some technical systems to realize storage on a large scale. The critical topic here would be the existing gas infrastructure use for conversion and storage. If we go back to the Germany example, we can see that they have a relatively substantial natural gas supply infrastructure with a lot of storage capacity. So, they would use this for energy storage in the future. However, they still need to reduce the cost while increasing supply reliability. Also, lack of incentives to use of synthetic renewable sources in the industry and heating sector is still a problematic issue.

Nevertheless, (1) by supporting general PtX technologies in terms of political, legal and financial as well as technical; (2) by creating stable supply structures to meet demand; (3) by extending the market; and (4) enhancing the cooperation among countries which aim to develop PtX, the renewable storage dream can be built on solid ground. This is not easy, but time is ticking away. So, the countries should make a move now if they care about the global targets on climate change and energy storage.


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