Thursday, October 6, 2011

Should we convert our electrical energy to methane?

At night between 11 PM and 4 AM there is an overcapacity of electrical energy. With the installation of wind energy, this overcapacity will even increase, since the is no merit in not using the wind to produce energy. In a smart grid, we will have time-of-use pricing for electrical energy and smart appliances being able to pick an economically good time to use energy. However, most appliances will still need to run during daytime or evening. Since electrical energy cannot be easily stored, we are in need for profound ideas to solve this issue.
Synthetic methane production
One possibilty could be the use of electrical energy to create methane, which can then be stored and used later for heating, cooking, or driving. In this process, first an electrolysis is performed to split water (HO2) into its components hydrogen(H) and oxygene(O). The hydrogen is then used to create methane or other gaseous fuels. Therefore, CO2 is added to produce methane (CH4). The produced methane is greenhouse-neutral since the amount of CO2 creation when being burned is exactly balanced by the amount of CO2 used in the production.
The biggest disadvantage of the approach is the limited efficiency of the method (about 50% of the energy is lost in the creation process, in total the efficiency is around 20-30%) and the comparably low price of natural methane sources. However, as soon as Russia is going to rise the gas prices, I'm gonna start my electrolyzer.


  1. How does that efficiency compare to storage-hydroplants? and to directly burning the hydrogen?

    Or is going to methane a safety aspect of the design? ... we don't want to cook with hydrogen.

  2. Pumped storage hydroplants are way better in their efficiency, up to 80% total. So for Austria definitely the better choice.
    The reason for methane is that it can be better used as car fuel, heating, and, as you said, cooking.