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European research project on hydrogen separation: Pilot plant for testing membranes in the separation of natural gas and hydrogen is ready

The European research project on hydrogen separation "Pilot plant for testing membranes for separating natural gas and hydrogen" is entering the decisive phase: The installation of the test plant in Prenzlau is complete and the test equipment is connected to the hydrogen and natural gas supply. 

ONTRAS Hybridkraftwerk
  • Laboratory container for practical test in Prenzlau before use
  • Successful completion of the test and inspection phase of the high pressure test apparatus in LeipzigSetting up the experimental setup and preparing the membrane tests on site
  • After the final TÜV approval, the test series will start in August 2021

Prezlau, Land Brandenburg, Germany, 8 July 2021. The European research project on hydrogen separation "Pilot plant for testing membranes for separating natural gas and hydrogen" is entering the decisive phase: The installation of the test plant in Prenzlau is complete and the test equipment is connected to the hydrogen and natural gas supply. Thus, the tests can begin with different membranes for gas separation. The aim of the project is to find out how hydrogen can be separated again from natural gas-hydrogen mixtures using different membranes. The local power-to-gas plant from ENERTRAG supplies green hydrogen generated using wind power. For the envisaged tests, this is added to the natural gas from the ONTRAS network via the existing feed-in system with a proportion of up to 20 percent by volume.

“After Corona-related delays of only six months in setting up the pilot plant, we are now starting the series of tests originally planned for the beginning of 2021. We are very pleased that we can now start with the heart of the project,”says project manager Udo Lubenau from DBI Gas- und Umwelttechnik GmbH (DBI). In the coming weeks, the test series will be prepared with various membrane types for gas separation and a final on-site inspection will be carried out by the TÜV. The actual test series will begin in August 2021.

The pilot plant is a joint project of DBI Gas- und Umwelttechnik GmbH, ONTRAS Gastransport GmbH (ONTRAS), the RICE research institute of the French GRTgaz S.A. (GRTgaz), the Mitteldeutsche Netzgesellschaft Gas mbH (MITNETZ), and the German Gas and Water Association e. V. (DVGW) and the associated partner ENERTRAG AG (ENERTRAG). It is investigated which membranes are best suited for the recovery of hydrogen, which quantities can be separated from the gas flow and what degree of purity this hydrogen achieves. The findings of this research project are of crucial importance for the configuration of a future hydrogen economy in which hydrogen and methane are to be transported together. For pure hydrogen and methane applications, it is crucial that gas mixtures can be separated in the future thanks to membrane technology, since individual gas applications do not allow every hydrogen admixture.. The Prenzalau pilot plant is the first to subject a future gas infrastructure to a practical suitability test.

“The results of our joint project have the potential to make an important contribution to the development of the future hydrogen infrastructure. If everything works as planned, a European Hydrogen Backbone as a connecting link between generators, storage facilities, centres of consumption and import points could be joined by regional mixed networks that supply both hydrogen and natural gas customers with a single pipeline”, says Ralph Bahke, ONTRAS CEO.

Frank Gröschl, Head of Technology and Innovation Management at DVGW, adds: “The gas network with a total length of around 500,000 kilometers will be able to transport and distribute climate-neutral hydrogen on a large scale in the medium term. The technical regulations of the DVGW are already being adapted and will be 100 percent H2-ready by 2026. When hydrogen is added to the natural gas network, the membrane technology is particularly relevant for applications that require a certain gas quality. "

“In future, hydrogen will cross national borders. Our cross-border collaboration is a key to success”, emphasizes Pierre Blouet, Director of RICE (GRTgaz research centre). He adds: “I am very excited about the opportunity for RICE to build on its relationships with other European network operators as part of this partnership. It is important that we work together to overcome the many hurdles to the success of a European, green hydrogen economy in order to speed up the reduction of carbon emissions.”

ENERTRAG CEO Jörg Müller relies on the potential of this practical test: “So far, technical regulations have prevented us from feeding more than two percent green hydrogen from our hybrid power plant into the gas network. We are confident that the membrane technology tests will be successful and that the existing regulations will then be adapted. This would be tantamount to a revolution in the transport and storage of hydrogen from renewable energies, because at least ten times the amount could be fed in.”

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DBI Gas- und Umwelttechnik GmbH is a DBI Group company. This group is the only company in Germany that covers the entire gas supply value chain, from extraction, generation, and storage, to transport and use. This means that it operates at the interface between research and practice in the gas industry. The extensive service portfolio from the areas of research and development, engineering and consulting, testing and education enables the DBI Group to offer its partners and customers a wide range of technical support. The DBI Group is particularly committed to the integration of renewable gaseous energy sources into the public gas supply.

ONTRAS Gastransport GmbH is a national gas transmission system operator in the European gas network, based in Leipzig. We operate and market the capacities of Germany’s second-largest gas transmission system covering around 7,500 kilometres with approximately 450 interconnection points. As a reliable partner, ONTRAS brings together the interests of traders, regional network operators and producers of renewable gas. With 23 biomethane feed-in plants and two hydrogen feed-in plants, ONTRAS makes a significant contribution to climate-neutral energy supply in Germany. ONTRAS is working together with partners to drive the development of hydrogen infrastructure with three H2 IPCEI projects and the Energiepark Bad Lauchchstädt real-world laboratory., @Netz_ONTRAS (Twitter), @ontras-gastransport-gmbh (LinkedIn)

Contact: Dr Ralf Borschinsky, Press Officer, / Tel.: +49 341 27111-2111

GRTgaz is Europe's second-largest gas carrier, with 32,500 km of pipes and 640 TWh of gas transported. The company has 3,000 employees and generated nearly €2.3 billion in turnover in 2020. The GRTgaz core purpose is: “Together, we enable an energy future that is safe, affordable and climate neutral”. GRTgaz is an innovative company undergoing a major transformation to adapt its network to new ecological and digital challenges. It is committed to a 100% carbon-neutral French gas mix by 2050. It supports the hydrogen and renewable gas sectors (biomethane and gas from solid and liquid waste). GRTgaz carries out public service missions to guarantee the safety of gas transmission for its 945 customers (shippers, distributors, industrial companies, biomethane plants and producers). With its subsidiaries Elengy, the European leader in LNG terminal services, and GRTgaz Deutschland, operator of the MEGAL transmission network in Germany, GRTgaz plays a key role in the European gas infrastructure scene. The company exports its know-how internationally, in particular services developed by its research centre, RICE. Find us on and Twitter.

Press Contact: Chafia Baci, / Tel : +33 6 40 48 54 40

Mitteldeutsche Netzgesellschaft Gas mbH (MITNETZ GAS), based in Kabelsketal, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, is a wholly owned subsidiary of MITGAS Mitteldeutsche Gasversorgung GmbH (MITGAS). As a distribution system operator, MITNETZ GAS is responsible for planning, operating, and marketing the leased networks. The gas networks have a total length of around 7,000 kilometres and extend over parts of the federal states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and Brandenburg.

Contact: Cornelia Sommerfeld, Press Officer, / Tel.: +49 345 216-2075

The German Association for Gas and Water (DVGW) promotes the gas and water sector with a focus on safety, hygiene and environmental protection. With around 13,700 members, the DVGW develops the generally recognized rules of technology for gas and water. Climate-neutral gases and especially the future energy carrier hydrogen are of particular importance in the work of the DVGW. The association initiates and promotes research projects and provides training on the entire spectrum of topics in the gas and water sector. In addition, it maintains a testing and certification system for products, people and companies. The technical rules of the DVGW form the basis for the technical self-administration and personal responsibility of the gas and water industry in Germany. They guarantee a safe gas and water supply of the highest international standard. The non-profit association was founded in Frankfurt am Main in 1859. The DVGW is economically independent and politically neutral.

Contact: Lars Wagner, Press Officer, / Tel.: +49 30 7847-3664

ENERTRAG provides all services related to renewable energies. We efficiently bring together electricity, heat, and mobility in all areas of life. As an energy producer with annual production of 1.45 million MWh in our portfolio, 672 plants installed and a “PowerSystem” service network that monitors 1,120 wind turbines, we know what is important to our customers from our own experience. With over two decades of experience in Europe, our 630 employees bring together all the skills required for successful operation and efficient maintenance, for planning that is responsive to public concerns and for the reliable construction of energy systems and networks up to complete combined cycle power plants. We are always one step ahead – whether in integrated energy, participation models or customised night marking.

Contact: Matthias Philippi, Press & Communications Manager / Tel.: +49 39854 6459-748

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