As more and more renewables come onto grids around the world, peak loads and peak production curves will shift dramatically, causing usage spikes at times when grid operators are used to seeing dips and seemingly random spikes in generation when the wind picks up. To smooth out these curves and irregularities, grid-scale storage is a key diffusing element, spreading the renewables love across a wider range of hours throughout the day.
Grid-scale batteries are typically looked to as the solution for grid-scale energy storage, but the folks over at the BioCat Project are taking a different approach and it starts with gas. No, not the gasoline you put in your car or the natural gas you burn in your stove… but good old-fashioned methane that comes from anaerobic digestion… just kicked up a notch.
BioCat aims to leverage the hydrogen created through electrolysis — splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen by applying an electrical current — to act as a catalyst for increased methane yields at wastewater treatment facilities. Many of these facilities already take advantage of anaerobic digestion (bacteria eating up organics in an oxygen-free environment) to generate methane, which they can then sell or burn for power generation, so adding on another process which increases net yields could be an easy win.
With these ideas tucked firmly into the back pocket, the BioCat Project is now setting its sights on a commercial-scale power-to-gas installation at a wastewater treatment plant in Denmark where it can vet the full process at a larger scale and provide energy storage services to the local grid.
Leveraging catalyst-enhanced biogas for energy storage allows grid operators to “harness fluctuating renewables and balance the grid,” as BioCat loves to brag. Converting excess grid electricity to natural gas allows for the re-use of existing natural gas infrastructure and can be used just like fossil fuel–based natural gas.
The BioCat Project is now working to finalize construction on a pilot installation at a wastewater treatment facility in Denmark, which is expected to be fully operational in the next couple of months.
For more information, check out the project website and get an idea of what the project is working to accomplish in the 2 minute video below:
Images and Video Credit: Bio Cat Project
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