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Marketing launch for Viessmann synthetic natural gas

Viessmann, a German manufacturer of heating, industrial, and refrigeration systems, has begun marketing synthetic natural gas (SNG) produced from surplus renewable electricity by means of a biological power-to-gas method for the first time in the world.

The first plant of its kind to produce this type of SNG went into operation at the beginning of March this year, and since June Viessmann has been marketing the gas as a biofuel after a successful performance test.

The increasing expansion of wind and solar power is leading to growing quantities of surplus electricity during windy and sunny periods that cannot be fed into the power grid due to a lack of demand or sufficient capacity of the electrical grid.

In this case, the surplus electricity can be used to produce hydrogen from water in an electrolyser developed and built in Allendorf, Germany, by Schmack Carbotech, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Viessmann.

Then, the produced hydrogen, together with carbon dioxide from a biogas plant, is converted into natural gas or methane by microbiological means.

The biological methanisation method was developed by MicrobEnergy and the technology was designed and built by Schmack Biogas, both Viessmann companies.

The methanisation is carried out by specialised microorganisms, which convert the in-water dissolved hydrogen and carbon dioxide into methane and water.

A month-long performance test was carried out in June, with passing criteria set at the production of 35,000kWh of energy and compliance with strict quality criteria for SNG, with methane content above 98% and hydrogen content below 1.5%.

The performance test was successful, achieving 120% of its targets.

The SNG is certified by TÜV Süd as a sustainable fuel for natural gas vehicles, and since July it has been marketed within the mobility sector.

A leading car manufacturer with a compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle fleet is the contractual purchaser, with Viessmann now also running several CNG vehicles in its fleet on its own SNG.

With the amount of gas produced at the plant, it is possible to travel approximately a total of 750,000km annually.

The SNG plant was built in the Allendorf (Eder) municipality in Germany with support from the BioPower2Gas funding project as a power-to-gas demonstration plant.

The main aims of the project are to test the electrolyser and the method of biological methanisation, to fully integrate the plant into the biomethane plant, to produce gas of a consistent and suitable quality, and to prove that operation is reliable and dynamic.

In addition, it will also investigate balancing energy operation and operation with fluctuating qualities of input gas, regarding CO2 and moisture content, temperature levels, and operation on cyclical and seasonal basis.

Viessmann is now planning the full implementation of an automated plant management and further optimisation of the business model, with MicrobEnergy planning to enter the balancing energy market in September 2015.