It’s been happening for billions of years: natural conversion of carbon dioxide into fuels like methane. A very ancient group of microorganisms called Archaea are able to produce this gas from CO2 and hydrogen. Methane is in fact a by-product of their energy generation. Archaea are a distinct group of microorganisms. They have a very special cell membrane, which allows them to survive in extreme conditions, like volcanic springs, salt lakes and geysers.
We can make clever use of this process by using the greenhouse gas CO2 as a chemical building block together with hydrogen, converting these into Methane. Hydrogen can be produced from water using sustainably generated electricity. In the project Power 2 Methane (Raak Pro) Bioclear earth in cooperation with Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, GasTerra, Gasunie, Energy Valley, DMT, Enexis and the University of Groningen, researches the possibility to use this ancient principle.
Methane is particularly suitable for the storage of large quantities of energy for a long period of time. This enables us to store a surplus of solar energy, generated during the summer and use this energy during the colder seasons. For the distribution we can make use of the existing gas infrastructure. We should also take in account that even though new houses are built more and more without a gas connection, existing buildings are still mainly relying on gas. In addition, our power network is simply not ready for a complete shift of our society to electricity.
Maritime and inland shipping, road transport and aviation totally rely on refillable fuels. A biofuel like methane can be a proper alternative for fuel oil and diesel. Purifying methane and subsequently cooling it down, generates a liquid fuel with high-energy performance. This so-called LNG (liquefied natural gas) is suitable for trucks, ships and possibly in the future for airplanes.
In 2016 Dutch transportation companies transported 650 million tons of commodities, which equals 40 million trucks per year. A truck uses approximately 30 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres. With the use of 100% bio-LNG a 70% CO2 reduction is viable. Moreover trucks driving on gas are much quieter, have a lower particulate matter emission and lower NOx- and SO2 emission (source: National platform LNG).
Approximately 90% of the goods that we buy in the Netherlands arrive in our country by ship. Since 2000 the fuel consumption of maritime shipping exceeds that of road traffic. At present, very polluting fuel oil is still the most used fuel in maritime shipping. An average container ship uses more than 100 tonnes of crude oil each day. Maritime shipping is responsible for 45,2 % of the sulphur dioxide (SO2), 28,9 % of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 2,6 % of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Netherlands (TLN transport in numbers). Using LNG bio fuel instead of fuel oil leads to an enormous reduction of SO2, CO2 en NOx, and particulate matter emissions.
Within the aviation industry LNG is seen as an option to make flying more sustainable. Since 2012 Boeing and NASA work on a project to create an airplane that can run on cryogenically frozen liquid natural gas. In Groningen research is also done on this subject. In 2016 Clean Tech Aviation opened a test facility for the application of LNG and CNG (compressed natural gas) in aircraft engines on the EnTranCe energy hotspot of the Hanze University of applied science Groningen.
It is expected that LNG will be playing an important part in aviation within two or three decades.
In conclusion, the use of bio-LNG for maritime shipping, road transport and in future aviation can play an important role in the transition to cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy. With the project Power 2 Methane we want to make an important contribution to this transition.
Would you like to know more about this project, please contact Jeroen Tideman.