Microorganisms belonging to the oldest living species on earth could hold the key to utility-scale electricity storage, according to Austrian company Krajete GmbH.
After four years of research and four patent applications, the cleantech start-up claims to have perfected the four billion year old metabolic process of ‘archaea’ to enable the direct conversion of CO2 and water into methane. This ‘power-to-gas’ process allows for the industrial storage of electricity.
The intermittent nature of renewable generation means that often excess electricity is produced when demand is low. Using a power-to-gas process would see any excess electricity generation used for the electrolytic generation of hydrogen. The hydrogen could then be combined with CO2 in the company’s bioreactor to create high-grade methane.
A traditional problem faced by many energy storage technologies is that demand for electricity often peaks dramatically at unpredictable times, necessitating the rapid switchover from an idle state to full-scale production mode. Synthetic methane fulfils this requirement perfectly as the generated methane can be stored passively within the existing grid structure with hardly any extra energy consumption.
Dr. Alexander Krajete, CEO of Krajete GmbH, admitted that the “tantalisingly attractive process for the energy sector proved very difficult to tame”, yet he believes that after four years of searching, his company has found “an economically optimised turnover for every application".
In addition to power storage this new process also provides resource-conserving options for the production of biofuels as well as enabling the low-cost purification of biogas and waste gas.
Krajete GmbH believes that it is the first company in the world to develop an industrial-ready power-to-gas process; economical and efficient renewable storage remains one of the key barriers to truly wide scale renewable adoption.