Avacon and DVGW jointly open new hydrogen admixture plant

The active phase of the innovation project “20 percent hydrogen in the gas network” begins

Schopsdorf, 17 December 2021 – Hydrogen blending in the gas network starts. In December, Avacon technical director Stephan Tenge and chairman of the DGVW Gerald Linke, together with Sven Schulze, Minister for the Economy of Saxony-Anhalt, officially opened a hydrogen admixture plant in Schopsdorf. During the next heating period, up to 20 percent hydrogen will gradually be added to the natural gas in a section of the grid in the Fläming district The joint project run by Avacon and the German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water (DVGW) is intended to demonstrate that it is technically possible to add hydrogen to an existing gas network at a significantly higher percentage than previously provided for in the technical regulations of the DVGW. The results of the project will act as a model for the future use of hydrogen in gas distribution networks. “Saxony-Anhalt is already playing a pioneering role in the field of hydrogen and we should be very proud of this,” said Sven Schulze, Minister for the Economy and Agriculture. “The central German chemical triangle is home to both large-scale users of hydrogen and a hydrogen infrastructure. We see the creation of a carbon-free hydrogen economy as a good opportunity for economic growth in the region. By establishing new value chains, we can safeguard existing high-quality jobs and create new ones. This is why I am so positive about the joint project involving Avacon and the DVGW,” continued Schulze.

“Hydrogen will be an important factor in the energy transition and in helping to prevent climate change. We can only achieve our climate targets by using all the available green fuels in every area of the economy,” said Stephan Tenge, technical director of Avacon. “We believe that converting gas networks to green gases offers considerable potential en route to a climate-neutral energy supply. With innovative projects like this one, we aim to show that our grids can make use of green gases efficiently and in the necessary quantities. This underlines the sustainable value of the distribution networks as the key to a carbon-free energy supply,” he added.

“The coalition agreement published by Germany's Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats makes it clear that the new government understands the important role that hydrogen can play in transforming the energy supply in Germany,” explained Professor Gerald Linke, chairman of the DVGW.  “Our joint project is a practical demonstration of the fact that the existing gas infrastructure and the majority of applications are hydrogen-ready and therefore are an essential asset which can help Germany to make the successful transition to a climate-neutral hydrogen economy.”

A section of the Avacon gas distribution network in the Jerichower Land region of Saxony-Anhalt was selected for the project. This section is particularly suitable because the infrastructure there is representative of the entire Avacon gas distribution network, which means that the results are transferable.  It consists of a medium-pressure distribution network with a pipeline length of about 35 kilometres that supplies about 350 customers with natural gas. It includes a wide variety of different gas appliances, most of which are used for heating.

During the first stage of the project, in cooperation with the Gas- und Wärme-Institut Essen (GWI) and the gas appliance manufacturers, all the gas appliances installed on the customers’ premises were logged and checked both for operating issues, safety and hydrogen compatibility. Almost all of the gas appliances that have been surveyed have received a positive report. Only four unsuitable appliances had to be replaced with modern, hydrogen-compatible systems. “We are very pleased that the customers were prepared to take part and we would like to thank everyone involved for their willingness to cooperate and the local authorities for their commitment and support,” said Tenge, directing his remarks to Steffen Borchardt, head of the district authority, and the mayors of the towns in the area.

The commissioning of the admixture plant marks the start of the next phase of the project, which involves the actual blending of the hydrogen. The hydrogen will gradually be fed into the system over the two heating periods 2021/22 and 2022/23 at levels of 10, 15 and 20 percent. Following the start-up of the plant, ten percent hydrogen will be added to the natural gas over a period of around four weeks. This percentage is within the admixture level covered by the DVGW regulations. Random measurements of around one third of the gas appliances will be carried out to ensure the combustion quality, determine the actual hydrogen content on the premises and provide technical support for all the stages of the blending process.

The amount of hydrogen added will gradually be increased from five percent to the maximum level of 20 percent. The 15-percent phase is planned for the first quarter of 2022. Following an evaluation, the target concentration of 20 percent hydrogen will be reached at the end of the heating period. Another 20-percent admixture phase lasting several weeks will take place in the heating period 2022/23. In addition to blending the hydrogen as uniformly as possible, volatile feed-ins are also planned in order to replicate the volatility of renewable energies as sources of hydrogen and to investigate the effects of fluctuating hydrogen content.