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Comment: Hydrogen in the natural gas network is pointless

How much hydrogen can the German natural gas network handle? The E.On subsidiary Avacon wants to find out together with the German Association for Gas and Water (DVGW) in a practical test. Starting in December, the partners want to gradually increase the admixture of hydrogen to up to 20 percent in a 35-kilometer network in Saxony-Anhalt with around 350 network customers. Currently only 5 percent are allowed.

For the experiment, the partners are installing an “admixing system” in a 20-foot container, which, among other things, continuously measures the concentration of the gases. “The project is intended to show that it is technically possible to feed hydrogen into an existing gas network at a significantly higher percentage than previously planned,” it says in one E. On notice. “Laboratory tests show that many devices in households can be operated with up to 30 percent hydrogen admixture. Devices and systems do not have to be changed for this process.”

Gregor Honsel has been the TR editor since 2006. He believes that many complex problems have simple, easy-to-understand, but wrong solutions.

The hydrogen for this comes from natural gas. “In this demo project it is important that a continuous hydrogen supply – independent of volatile energies – is available”, explains the DVGW on request. In other words: natural gas is converted into hydrogen with energy losses of 30 to 40 percent convertedin order to then feed it back into a natural gas network.

It would be unfair to rave about the project at this point. After all, it is just a research project that aims to determine the possible feed-in of “green” hydrogen – that is, hydrogen obtained electrolytically from wind or solar power. The proponents argue that this should turn the natural gas network into a form of massive seasonal electricity storage.

The fact that an increased hydrogen feed into the existing network is apparently technically possible is all well and good – but it misses the point: How sensible is the whole thing? Because the natural gas network will by no means become one even with green hydrogen currentmemory, but initially at most to one energyStorage. In order to convert the hydrogen-natural gas mixture back into electricity, it has to be burned in a thermal power station. As a result, the moderate efficiency of the power plant increases the conversion losses again.

In general, it is questionable whether the function as a buffer for the power grid is really the most sensible use of the valuable hydrogen. Michael Liebreich, management consultant and founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, has created a “hydrogen ladder” that lists how useful which use is for which purpose – in seven levels from “unavoidable” to “uncompetitive” (German: not competitive). Stabilizing the power grid and refueling cars are on the lowest level, house heating on the second lowest level. At the top is the material use for the production of fertilizers or of methanol as a chemical raw material.

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[4.11.2021, 15:20 Uhr: Korrektur im 5. Absatz in Bezug auf die Umwandlungsverluste. jle]

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