E-methane might prove to be the cheapest way to ship green hydrogen and also a way for Germany to reduce its dependency on Russian gas.
As a response to the Ukraine crisis, an ambitious project is aiming to import 5 million metric tons of hydrogen annually in the form of synthetic green CH4, only to convert it back into hydrogen.
Tree energy solutions, a green hydrogen producer based in Belgium, is working to complete the green gas terminal at the Wilhelmshaven port in northwest Germany. Their main objective is to accept the deliveries of carbon-neutral e-methane before the winter of 2025.
Captured CO2 combined with low-cost renewable hydrogen via the Sabatier methanisation process, is how the CH4 is produced. It’s later converted back into H2 or even used as methane with carbon capture.
How can it help Germany?
This green energy hub is also set to import liquefied natural gas, which can contribute to reducing the dependency of Germany on natural gas from Russia,
The fast-tracking will speed up the growth of green gas imports over time and at the same time act as alternative energy security for Europe and Germany.
Germany announced its readiness to build two new LNG terminals, although these are considered a mothballed project. TES, however, believes the Wilhelmshaven project deserves just as much support as the other traditional LNG terminal initiatives.
Why green methane?
This is the first large scale plant project that uses synthetic methane as a green hydrogen carrier. Also, it is among the first projects that uses CO2 in an international closed loop.
Technically, e-methane is split into CO2 and hydrogen through auto thermal reforming. This process is typically associated with blue hydrogen produced from natural gas with CCS.
The original production site receives almost 99% of the emitted CO2 from the entire process, which is then liquefied and reused for the next batch of e-methane, in the same ship that was used to transport the gas.
The company recommends LNG to power the ships with onboard carbon capture – a technology that is still being developed.
It may sound complicated and costly, but the chief commercial officer Otto Waterlander says that the H2 produced in this way would be much more affordable than any other renewable hydrogen anywhere in Germany.
Methane has the capability to hold more hydrogen in terms of volume compared to other transportation options such as methanol, ammonia, liquefied, or compressed H2.
After a comparison of this green hydrogen imports route to other alternative routes, this one turned out to be 30% more cost-efficient compared to the ammonia route.
E-methane is the cheapest green hydrogen carrier and it will soon catch the eyes of other developers too.
It needs the same equipment as natural gas for pipelines, liquefaction, vessels and regasification.
Using a huge part of the existing energy system helps keep the costs lower than other large-scale uses of hydrogen carriers.
TES is also set to use molten salt storage with low-cost solar PV. This is believed to produce 24-hour renewable electricity in the hotter climates such as Africa or the Middle East.