Research project ORBIT II

Expansion of a highly efficient trickle bed bioreactor and optimization of the methanation plant for commercial industrial use

Research and project management

Regensburg University of Applied Sciences

The Research Center for Energy Networks and Energy Storage (FENES) at Regensburg University of Applied Sciences (OTH Regensburg) is a research-oriented university institution, which assesses technical, economic, and political issues in the field of various energy storage systems as well as electricity and energy supply networks of all voltage levels. FENES is managed by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Sterner and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Oliver Brückl alongside 25 employees and students. The research project “ORBIT” helped acquire broad knowledge in biological methanization. In cooperation with the “ORBIT” consortium, a bioreactor was set up and commissioned, initial tests were carried out and the project was subsequently optimized. Continuous and stable operation of the reactor has been demonstrated at the Regensburg site. During the final field test in Ibbenbüren, the bioreactor was successfully coupled with an electrolyzer and its ability to feed the methane produced into the natural gas grid was demonstrated.

Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

The Chair of Energy Process Technology (EVT), headed by Prof. Jürgen Karl, deals with biomass combustion and thermal gasification, high-temperature storage as well as catalytic and biological methanation. Prof. Karl has already coordinated and is currently coordinating several EU projects on biomass gasification (FP5 project “Biomass Heatpipe Reformer”), the use of synthesis gases in SOFC fuel cells (FP6 project “BioCellus”) and on methanation (including RFCS project “CO2freeSNG”, BMWi project Power-to-Biogas). In addition, in the field of biological methanation, the projects “Ash-to-Gas” as well as “ORBIT” and the currently running project “IntenseMethane” were carried out. Furthermore, the Chair of Energy Process Engineering is currently working in the VDI working group on the design of the new VDI guideline “VDI 4635 Power-to-X” which will also address biological CO2 methanation. In addition, the Chair of Energy Process Engineering deals with energy systems and energy economics as well as AI-based topics. Since 2020, Prof. Katharina Herkendell has been extending the research focus of the chair in the field of decentralized energy process engineering in the areas of bioelectrocatalytic power generation, waste-to-energy and bioelectrosynthesis.

University of Regensburg

The Department of Microbiology at the University of Regensburg has been working on extremophilic microorganisms for over 30 years, with a specific focus on the study of methanogenic archaea. In addition, it boasts world-renowned expertise on large-scale cultivation of up to 300 litres, which was incorporated into the previous “ORBIT” project. In the present project, as in the “ORBIT” project, the strain collection comprised of about 250 deposited methanogenic archaea forms the basis of the culture screening. The established methodology for the selection of suitable microorganism-filler combinations can easily and quickly be transferred to the planned project and the knowledge gained can be used directly for the proposed project. Regardless of the tower packings investigated in “ORBIT”, initial tests have already been carried out with glass tower packings from Schott AG. Since these proved to be particularly promising, Schott AG was accepted as a partner in the consortium for further investigations. Furthermore, initial investigations into the establishment of stable co-cultures have already been carried out and will be incorporated into the project.

Industry partners

ostermeier H2ydrogen Solutions GmbH

ostermeier H2ydrogen Solutions GmbH is a spin-off of Klaus Ostermeier GmbH, in which the hydrogen competences were bundled. The company was founded on March 30th 2021. Klaus Ostermeier GmbH was founded in 1978 in Eching, near Munich. The firm initially produced discharge systems for waste, laundry and paper, which are now used worldwide. Over the last few years, Ostermeier GmbH has acquired a high level of competence in the field of
environmental systems technology and has also supplied system components for the biogas industry. Combined with a high vertical range of manufacturing, complex systems can be produced at the company’s own manufacturing site in Schweitenkirchen. In 2018, the company entered the hydrogen generation segment. Building on the many years of experience of its own employees in the field of renewable energies and power-to-gas as well as its own plant construction expertise, Klaus Ostermeier GmbH is developing and manufacturing a modular electrolysis system in the 1-100 kW performance class for local hydrogen production. With this standard product, the hydrogen supply via cylinders is to be replaced by a local and demand-adapted hydrogen supply. In a second step, the system will be expanded to include additional components and be upgraded to an H2 battery. The integration of electrolysis into a smart grid, its qualification as a building block for energy storage as well as the adaptation of the modular electrolysis system for maritime applications are currently in progress.



SCHOTT AG is a leading international technology group in the fields of specialty glass and glass ceramics. With the experience of more than 130 years of outstanding development, material and technology competencies, the company offers a broad portfolio of high-quality products and intelligent solutions. The company is committed to innovation and sustainable success. SCHOTT AG is headquartered in Mainz and is entirely owned by the Carl Zeiss Foundation.

As a foundation company, SCHOTT assumes a special responsibility for its employees, society and the environment. With more than 500 scientists, technicians and laboratory assistants, SCHOTT is a global leader in the field of glass and glass ceramics and strives to constantly drive innovation and development. The first glass fillers have already been manufactured independently of “ORBIT” and the proposed project. Upon inverstigation by the University of Regensburg they were declared promising.

Associated partners

Citizens' Energy Cooperative in the District of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm

The Citizens’ Energy Cooperative in the District of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm was founded in 2012 on the initiative of the Energie- und Solarverein Pfaffenhofen e.V. and with the support of the city of Pfaffenhofen for the district of Pfaffenhofen. It aims to create a link between civic engagement, climate-friendly energy generation and economic success. It therefore initiates and finances projects for the generation, storage and distribution of renewable energies in the district of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm. It plans, finances and operates projects in the fields of biogas, wind power and photovoltaics and, with currently more than 800 members, is one of the most active citizen energy cooperatives in Bavaria as well as a founding member of the Landesvereinigung Bürgerenergie Bayern e.V..

Electrochaea GmbH

Electrochaea GmbH was founded in 2014 and has since been based in Planegg near Munich. The company currently has 40 employees. Its key competence is a biomethanization technology (Power-to-Gas, PtG) which uses a conversion of renewable electrical energy into climate-friendly synthetic methane by means of microbes. The renewable methane can be fed directly into the national gas grid and thus becomes storable and transportable. In this technology sector, Electrochaea GmbH has continuously advanced its process from development on a laboratory and pilot scale to the construction and operation of plants with an electrolytic input power of 1 MW and has now brought it to market maturity. Electrochaea GmbH’s unique technological features include a proprietary microorganism, an archaeal strain with unrivaled methanation efficiency, and a bioreactor design that allows for very high volumetric productivity and scalability.

Hitachi Zosen INOVA Schmack GmbH

Hitachi Zosen INOVA Schmack GmbH designs customized power-to-gas concepts for companies and municipalities whose focus is on renewable and decentralized energy supply. The company focuses on the conversion of hydrogen into synthetic methane using the BiON® process. Schmack BioEnergie GmbH was founded at the end of 2019 as a subsidiary of Viessmann Climate Solutions SE and, together with its subsidiaries Schmack Biogas Service GmbH, Schmack Biogas GmbH and microbEnergy GmbH, bundles competencies in the areas of project development, plant construction and plant operation of biogas and power-to-gas plants. The headquarters of Hitachi Zosen INOVA Schmack GmbH and its subsidiaries is Schwandorf in Bavaria.

MicroPyros BioEnerTec GmbH

Since 2012, MicroPyros BioEnerTec GmbH has been working on the development and optimization of power-to-gas systems through microbiologically focused technologies for the methanation of CO2 or regeneratively generated CO-containing gases with renewable hydrogen. Together with its partent company Pietro Fiorentini S.p.A., the company has been offering feasibility studies since 2021 for the techno-economic conversion of existing carbon-containing gases into storable energy carriers for companies and municipalities. Micropyros BioEnerTec is part of a unique business ecosystem under the umbrella of Pietro Fiorentini, which offers turnkey solutions in the field of renewable gases, ranging from renewable hydrogen production, microbiological methanation, gas treatment and grid to gas processing to grid injection or gas liquefaction. Currently, the demonstration plant “BioFARM” is being built on the site of the Straubing wastewater treatment plant where the advanced technology can be demonstrated in real-world applications. In addition, work is currently being carried out on commercial projects in the European area.

Stadtwerke Pfaffenhofen a. d. Ilm

Stadtwerke Pfaffenhofen a. d. Ilm was founded in 2013 and is a 100% subsidiary of the city of Pfaffenhofen a. d. Ilm. With over 170 employees, the municipal company located between the metropolitan regions of Ingolstadt and Munich is responsible for the secure and sustainable supply of electricity, district heating, gas and water to around 26,000 citizens and local companies. In addition to operating the sewage treatment plant, the tasks also include bearing responsibility for the infrastructure of the water and wastewater network and the maintenance of municipal roads. Numerous other services in Pfaffenhofen are covered by the company’s own municipal service. Since 2017, the corresponding networks have been returned to public ownership via the company’s own subsidiaries Stromversorgung Pfaffenhofen and Gasversorgung Pfaffenhofen.

The municipal company has been working on power-to-gas technology since 2016 as part of the “100 % clean energy” strategy of the city of Pfaffenhofen a. d. Ilm. In the course of this, initial profitability calculations have already been made and legal advice has been obtained. In a Bavarian research project, the possibilities of integrating a PtG plant with a MW-scale stirred tank into the wastewater treatment plant are being investigated. SWP can profitably contribute its previous experience to “ORBIT II”. By 2024, the SWP wastewater treatment plant will be redesigned and prepared for the future. The year of 2021 will constitute the planning phase, the years of 2022 – 2024 will be the implementation phase to prepare the wastewater treatment plant for future conditions in the energy and water system. Especially during the planning phase in 2021, the installation and operation of ORBIT-Demo can already be considered and planned. The necessary space for the plant is available on the premises of the municipal utility.