Research project ORBIT II

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

The “ORBIT” research project enters into the next round

“An important contribution to the national hydrogen strategy”: power-to-gas technology to be brought to industrial implementation.

The successful work of the “ORBIT” project on storing electricity from renewable sources in the form of methane continues. Under the leadership of the Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule Regensburg (OTH Regensburg), ten partners will be working within the framework of “ORBIT II” on the further development and industrial use of a power-to-gas plant and thus on the future of the Geerman hydrogen economy. The German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWi) is funding the project with 1.8 million euros.

In times of climate strikes and ambitious new climate targets, electricity generation from renewable sources plays an important role in mitigating climate change. An essential building block for a successful energy transition is the storage of this energy. In the joint project “ORBIT II” (expansion of a highly efficient trickle bed bioreactor and optimization of the methanation plant for commercial industrial use), ten partners are working on the expansion of a power-to-gas plant in order to bring this technology closer to commercial use on relevant scales.

As in the first “ORBIT” project, archaea take on the central task of methanation, converting carbon dioxide and hydrogen into methane and water. Archaea are microorganisms that are among the oldest living organisms on earth. The bioreactor set up in the previous project will be expanded within “ORBIT II” to include, among other things, an electrolyzer and will be converted into a scalable container solution. Through a two-year trial phase with various industrial gases and a field test in a sewage treatment plant, the project partners will gain new knowledge on the economic operation of the plant. Plant configurations for various industrial applications will be developed, allowing for customized solutions to be developed.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Sterner heads the project at the OTH Regensburg: “We are bringing power-to-gas technology to industrial implementation and thereby making an important contribution to the national hydrogen strategy.” Project partners are the University of Regensburg with its Chair of Microbiology and the Archaea Center, the Chair of Energy Process Engineering at the Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, and the industrial companies Ostermeier H2ydrogen Solutions GmbH (Schweitenkirchen) and Schott AG with its Landshut site.

In addition, the companies Electrochaea GmbH, MicrobEnergy GmbH (Hitachi Zosen INOVA) and MicroPyros BioEnerTec GmbH are participating in the project as associated partners and contributing their know-how in the field of biological methanation. Other associated partners are the municipal utility Stadtwerke Pfaffenhofen a. d. Ilm and the B├╝rgerenergiegenossenschaft im Landkreis Pfaffenhofen a. d. Ilm eG. The two Pfaffenhofen partners support the integration of renewable electricity into the power-to-gas plant, its operation in a sewage treatment plant and the participation of citizens.

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Baier, President of the OTH Regensburg, described the project as an “important contribution on the way to a hydrogen society and to the goal of a CO2-free future”. Reaching industrial standards, he said, is a key step in reducing the comparatively high cost of producing green hydrogen. The OTH Regensburg is contributing to the “Hydrogen Republic of Germany” through various research projects.

“ORBIT II” is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWi) with a sum of 1.8 million euros, around 870,000 euros of which will go to OTH Regensburg. The project started on December 1, 2021 and will run for three years.

Authors: FENES, Office of University Communications and Public Relations (OTH Regensburg)