Project Seeks Ways to Use Methane In Transportation, Energy

By Jack Burke14 September 2018

A three-year collaboration among 27 scientific, industrial and business partners is underway with the goal of finding ways to use methane-based fuels for transportation and energy production.


In a so-called power-to-gas process that uses electric power from renewable energy sources, environmentally friendly gas can be generated that can be stored easily for later use as and when required. Methane from power-to-gas processes offers numerous benefits compared with other power-to-X options – the production processes are less complex and deliver significantly higher levels of efficiency, which has a positive impact on production costs. A further benefit is the trouble-free, successive replacement of fossil-based natural gas by compressed or liquid methane from renewable energy sources (renewable methane). This means that the existing gas networks and gas applications can still be used without the need for expensive and time-consuming modifications.

The MethQuest collaboration includes six joint projects ranging from methane recovery, new engine concepts for ships, cogeneration plants and cars, to sector coupling using microgrid solutions for both inland and seaports, in addition to a systems analysis assessment.

The aim of the program is to develop environmentally friendly, affordable and practicable approaches for a successful energy transition, according to members.

Responsibility for the joint lead project coordination has been assigned to Rolls-Royce Power Systems and the DVGW Research Centre at Engler-Bunte-Institute (EBI) of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

In the MethQuest lead project, the goal is to find technologies that use methane-based fuels from renewables in mobile and stationary applications and subsequently launch them to the market. While the use of gas is widespread, particularly for heating purposes, its potential for passenger, freight and maritime transport has lagged. Its use in cogeneration plants to provide a flexible means of generating heat and power has also been stagnating for many years, in spite of the fact that cogeneration plants in power-operated mode are seen as a key element of the energy transition, according to the MethQuest group.

Taking the Port of Karlsruhe as a case study, the interfaces and synergies of sector coupling will be examined and simulated. Specifically, the purpose of the study is to determine how electricity, gas and heat can be produced locally as required and supplied to the end users.

These will include the local port infrastructure, in addition to the city’s bus fleet and barges.

Storage possibilities will also be considered that would enable the local grid to be operated independently.

“For a successful energy transition, it is absolutely essential that the energy and transport sectors are coupled and looked at as a whole,” said Norbert Brackmann, Germany’s coordinator for the maritime industry. “At the same time, methane-based fuels produced using electric power that is generated from renewable energy sources (power-to-gas) will be an important factor. They will enable greenhouse gas emissions to be significantly reduced, which will help is to achieve our climate protection goals. The further development of technologies that will make possible the energy-efficient use of these fuels is an integral part of the MethQuest lead project.”

The project has a total value of €32 million, with financing provided by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) amounting to a total of €19 million. Andreas Schell, CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems, and Dr. Frank Graf, director, Gas Technology at the DVGW Research Center at Engler-Bunte-Institute of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), accepted the official grant approval on behalf of the 27 partners from research and industry.

“Through these six joint projects we will achieve an innovation boost in numerous areas, from the development of innovative ways of obtaining gas from renewables to new kinds of engine concepts for cars, stationary applications and ship propulsion systems, in addition to the design of microgrids for inland and seaports,” Graf said.

Schell said he welcomes the commitment of all project participants as making an important contribution to Germany‘s energy transition.

“As a solutions provider, we have been pushing ahead with the use of alternative fuels, the development of new MTU gas engines and the further electrification of both propulsion systems and energy systems with our Green and High-Tech initiative for a long time,” Schell said. “We have been successful in doing this only as a result of our close collaboration with strong partners, such as those involved in this project. We are therefore extremely delighted that we will now be able to increase our expertise in the two joint projects MethPower and MethMare in a leading capacity, in addition to making a contribution in the joint project MethGrid and together with all the project partners.”

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