Interview with Doris Hafenbradl, CTO at Electrochaea
Natural gas is competing in a complex and rapidly changing environment, which is why it is crucial for the industry to look at technical innovations which are shaping the energy landscape of tomorrow.
With the 2018 European Autumn Gas Conference (EAGC) introducing a brand new feature to the programme - Future of Energy - Gastech Insights spoke with confirmed speaker, CTO & Managing Director at Electrochaea, Dr Doris Hafenbradl, to hear her views on the evolving market dynamics and the latest technology Electrochaea is developing.
Gastech Insights: Electrochaea has developed a commercially viable and innovative storage for utility-scale energy, grid balancing and carbon reuse. Could you tell us more about this and what it means for the industry?
Dr Doris Hafenbradl: What makes the Electrochaea technology so exceptional is the use of micro-organisms, so-called Archaea, to convert energy and CO2 into easy to store, easy to transport and easy to use CO2-neutral bio-methane. We have improved the natural metabolism of the Archaea and thereby increased the robustness and efficiency of our strain to an outstanding level. With this biological Power-to-Methane technology we can store energy without time limitations at a very large scale – and with large we mean thousands of gigawatts. This is the key to the storage of energy from renewable sources and the solution to balancing renewable energy supply and demand. Another big advantage: The Archaea need CO2 to produce bio-methane. By using CO2 sourced from industry or biogas plants, for example, our technology contributes to the reduction of the carbon footprint. Many countries even have the infrastructure already: The bio-methane produced by our Archaea is of such a high quality that it can be fed directly into existing natural gas grids.
Gastech Insights: How do you see power-to-gas technologies evolving in the next 5 years?
Dr Doris Hafenbradl: The latest break-through in power-to-gas technology has been the development of the biological methanation process as introduced by Electrochaea with a pilot plant close to Copenhagen in Denmark. This was a real game changer regarding technological and economic efficiency. With the first industrial-scale Power-to-Methane plant we have demonstrated that the technology runs smoothly is highly flexible and absolutely stable. The next step forward is the scaling of the technology to multi-MWe commercial plants worldwide. Within the next 5 years, the demand for energy storage solutions and CO2 re-use will increase rapidly. We see several markets opening at the moment based on high demand for renewable biomethane fuel. The Electrochaea team is ready to bring the MWs on the ground.
Gastech Insights: Battery storage technology is set to transform the way we use the grid. What are the key opportunities of different storage technologies?
Dr Doris Hafenbradl: Having a variety of different storage technologies is key because different platforms serve different storage needs and uses. The same way it is better to have a diversified energy production it is also preferable to have more than just one way to store energy. The production of batteries, for example, is limited by the natural resources needed to build them. So the theoretical notion of an all-electric and battery based society finds its practical limits in the resource supply for battery manufacturing. However, if you want to store relatively small quantities of energy for a short time period in the range of hours - a battery is your best friend. To store energy in grid scale to balance the fluctuating seasonal supply and demand of renewable energy a technology far beyond the capabilities of batteries is needed. And this is where Electrochaea comes in.
Gastech Insights: You are speaking at ‘The Future of Energy’ conference at the EAGC. Why should industry players attend the event?
Dr Doris Hafenbradl: Our team is very grateful for the opportunity to showcase the huge potential of the Electrochaea methanation technology at “The Future of Energy” conference. We all see the global market for renewable energy growing each year and with it the demand for grid balancing and long-term, large-scale energy storage solutions. Our Power-to-Methane technology is ready to serve this demand. We address a broad variety of industries: there are utility managers, grid providers, investors and in general stakeholders in the renewable energy sector or natural gas business who look for a scalable Power-to-Gas solution. Machinery installers or anyone who deals with upcycling CO2 will be interested in seeing our latest technology developments. We look forward to meeting them at the EAGC to discuss how Electrochaea’s technology can help their businesses and activities.