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Scaling biological e-methanation as a Green Deal building block

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Echaea (Scaling biological e-methanation as a Green Deal building block)

Reporting period: 2020-11-01 to 2021-10-31

Following the efforts to decarbonise the electricity with implementation of wind- and PV installations, it is also of imminent importance to decarbonise natural gas, which is the biggest energy import product into the EU today. Renewable methane, so-called e-methane is the direct renewable equivalent of natural gas. It can be stored and transported in the existing gas infrastructure and be utilized accross sectors, for transportation, power generation and industrial heating. The European energy transition relies on both: renewable electricity and renewable gas.
Electrochaea has developed a bio-methanation technology which allows the large scale production of e-methane from renewable power and waste CO2. Our highly productive microorganism and pressure bioreactor design carry the potential to solve the challenge of providing cost-effective large-scale energy storage and a multi-purpose e- fuel. Echaea are the only company worldwide to have validated a biological methanation technology in industrial prototypes that turn CO2 into e-methane, using curtailed renewable power, and storing it in existing gas grids. Our technology has shown to produce grid-quality emethane in a continuous process at a 1MW scale (Biofos, DK, Solothurn, CH) and now needs to be scaled up to commercial size. The EIC grant funded project will de-risk Electrochaea’s Power-to-Methane solution to market-readiness.
We have assessed a market potential today of around 500 biological methanation plants and of 5,000 in the EU, more around the world, by 2050.
By 2050, this technology could convert 0.8% of annual CO2 released in the EU.
The funded project is aiming to generate the first commercial biomethanation plant at 10MWe scale, to produce 500Nm3/hr e-methane. The following activities have been performed so far:
- a risk assessment and mitigation plan has been generated by the project manager in collaboration with all work package leaders; constant monitoring of progress against planning and budget are performed
- project development of the first commercial project in Roslev, Denmark, is ongoing; we have initiated the permitting process and discussed the permitting and integration of a wind park into the project with the Skive Municipality; the legal counsel is preparing drafts of agreements for the project and timeline for legal work for capital increase and wind asset integration; we have hired a General Manager (Consultant) for evaluating economics and legal structure of wind power component for project
- Basic engineering has been completed with a subcontract with ECM Kraftanlagen in Munich; the deliverables have been summarized in D3.1 and have been provided to the consultant in Denmark for generating permitting documents;
- For reduction of operating costs an automation strategy for fully automated operation is currently developed. The first version of the scale-up model is currently reviewed.
- The cost for nutrients have been reduced significantly by identification and testing of a new chemical formulation. New operating strategies with cell retention and nutrient recovery are currently being tested in the laboratory using a membrane filtration system.
- Roll-out and market strategy is developed by a EU country by country analysis and ranking for ”markets of interest” based on regulatory framework for renewable gas and carbon attribute pricing; 4 sites are under detailed evaluation/disucssion for first deployment of the standard 10MWe plant to ensure a back-up strategy if the Roslev project can´t be realized; participation with Hydrogen Denmark and strategic partners (Baker Hughes and Storengy) for regulatory engagement at EC and target countries; Framework agreements in place with Danish Embassies in the Nordics and Southern Europe countries for identification of project sites and to secure commercial project financing; New lead generation via many conferences and exhibitions around Europe
Progress beyond the state of the art:
Within the project Electrochaea has already achieved a basic engineering design for a 10MWe biomethanation plant. This is the first time that such large scale design for this technology has been generated as the basis for detail engineering. This achievement was critical for the success of the overall project.
All efforts on operating and capital costs are progressing as expected including automation, nutrient cost reduction, cell and nutrient recycling strategy and bioreactor model to improve volumetric productivity and scaling of the system.

Expected results until the end of the project:
The key objective for Electrochaea is the accelerated entry into the commercial market with an attractive offering which can be multiplied:

1. Generate the basic and detailed engineering for a standard scale-up plant (10MWe)
2. Reduce CAPEX and OPEX
3. Develop the key EU markets for e-methane and generate market strategy
4. Develop the first commercial project in EU

Potential impacts (incl soci-economic impact and societal implications of the project so far):
Echaea is supporting three main goals of the Green Deal
1. Increasing the EU’s climate mitigation and/or adaptation ambition
2. Supplying clean, affordable and secure energy
3. Accelerating the shift to sustainable and smart mobility
How are they supported?
• use of CO2 as a resource and thereby preventing CO2 to be released into the atmosphere. The process is very carbon efficient as it converts > 97% of all carbon processed in the system.
• use of renewable electricity that otherwise potentially would be sold below value or would have to be curtailed. It thereby supports faster conversion of the energy system.
• addition of a technology path to produce renewable methane (other than renewable methane produced from biogas) that can be used as an alternative to fossil gas.
• making sector coupling happening.
We have assessed a market potential today of around 500 biological methanation plants and of 5,000 in the EU, more around the world, by 2050.
A 10MWe biomethanation plant will convert 5,700 mt of CO2 a year and produce 2,8m Nm3 e-methane, sufficient to heat 2,400 homes. By 2050, this technology could convert 0.8% of annual CO2 released in the EU.

Many companies from around the world have expressed interest in Electrochaea’s technology resulting in a potential capacity of up to 500 MW. Several of them represent utilities from EU countries interested in developing PtG plants with Electrochaea once engineering work in the EIC project has been completed and CAPEX and OPEX for a scaled-up plant have decreased. Various conversations with interested parties indicate the planned reduction in CAPEX and OPEX will establish a price point at which customers will purchase Electrochaea’s
technology. Serious demand for early scale-up can be seen in four customer groups in the utility sector:
• Large energy utilities who need to provide low carbon footprint solutions to their clients
• Gas distributors and gas grid operators. Rationale: adding renewable sources and utilizing existing infrastructure
• Wind and biogas farm operators and municipal utilities who need to maximize their revenues and, at the same time, are driven by CO2 emission reduction
• Large engineering companies in the oil and gas industry who understand that they need to refocus their business activities towards renewable energies
Industrial scale 1MWe BioCat plant in Denmark