FreeWord – Power-to-X: The solution for decarbonization

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Hello folks, it’s FreeWord time! Today is all about Power-to-X (P2X).

The Paris Agreement provides a roadmap for low-carbon fueled economic growth, and these goals require further development of reliable renewable energy technologies. So far, transformation efforts in the energy sector have focused on increasing renewable production capacity as the basis for a future energy system, and renewable sources have been found to be an efficient way of generating electricity. However, for various reasons, there is often more produced electricity than expected, which creates more power to the grid that it can handle, and these situations are becoming more frequent.

For the grid to function efficiently, the power supply needs to match power demand at all times, but with renewables, that’s not always the case.

Charles Barnhart, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford

For example, wind farms often generate excess electricity at night when demand is low, and extra energy needs to be stored or used elsewhere. Storing surplus energy in batteries for later use seems like a straight forward solution, but studies suggest that this is not always the case – it may be better for the environment to temporarily shut down a wind turbine than to store excess electricity. In addition, utilities simply don’t have time to prepare for the future with economical, decentralized energy storage because it’s on the verge. We have to come up with a different approach which takes us to P2X.

What is Power-to-X

P2X (also known as “power-to-gas,” “power-to-chemicals,” “Power-to-Heat,” and “Power-to-Liquids”) refers to carbon capture and utilization, and as the name implies, it can lead to the result of a variety of fuels, energy carriers, and energy services. In other words, P2X is an energy transformation technology that converts electricity into carbon-neutral synthetic fuels (gas or liquids), which can then be used in other sectors (such as mobility, heating, and electricity) or be stored until needed.

Source

Overall, efficient management of renewable energy sources is economically beneficial and contributes to the goals of decarbonization. Besides the energy industry, other sectors such as heating, cooling, and mobility also need to reduce the use of fossil fuels to reduce CO2 emissions.

Power-to-X today

P2X is not a new invention, but its state has grown in recent years, and it offers clear opportunities for storing surplus energy during relatively low demand, which can improve the economic value of renewable energy production by facilitating classic storage arbitrage. In addition, as renewable energy continues to expand, P2X also has the potential to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions in other economic sectors, such as industry and transport. The potential for large amounts of low-carbon excess electricity has attracted a strong interest in this concept.

How does it work?

P2X solutions are based on a water electrolysis process that produces green hydrogen, which in turn can be combined with various carbon-based feedstocks in special catalytic reactors to produce different fuels or chemicals. The efficiency of the whole conversion process is currently limited by the electrolysis step. Therefore, the development of high-performing, durable, and cost-efficient electrolysis cells and systems is essential for the global adoption of this technology. This focus covers the aspects of electrolysis materials, equipment, and systems, as well as the entire conversion process, including the catalytic conversion of hydrogen-assisted carbon feedstock.

Positives

  • Substitute fossil fuels with CO₂-neutral alternatives, which can lead to reduced CO2 emissions
  • Brings several options for the effective and flexible use of surplus power from renewables
  • Long-term storage of renewable energy
  • Cost-optimized concept

Negatives

  • Converting electricity into hydrogen implies energy losses
  • Converting hydrogen into synthetic methane or natural gas requires adding CO2 which is mainly obtained from fossil fuels such as coal, crude oil or natural gas

Conclusion

The more flexible our electricity system functions, the more efficient the overall energy system will be. Only in this way can we guarantee a secure, affordable, and environmentally friendly energy supply for the future. The potential of P2X is now being actively explored, since data related to the scale-up of the different steps of the technology is still missing. Further development requires mainly the decrease in capital costs and the improvement of process efficiency, in particular, electrolysis. P2X role in the future energy system is far from certain, but given its potential to leverage existing infrastructure, the potential is enormous. P2X may be the solution to our environmental and economic sustainability.

Photo Credit: https://www.euwid-energie.de/dossier-power-to-gas-fuer-die-energiewende/


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1 Response

  1. March 4, 2020

    […] FreeWord – Power-to-X: The solution for decarbonization […]

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