Production of renewable gas from waste wood

October 8, 2018 by Martin Heidelberger, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Production of Renewable Gas from Waste Wood
The plant’s key components: honeycomb catalysts convert hydrogen and carbon monoxide into methane and water. Credit: Andreas Spiegel

KIT's researchers succeeded in producing renewable methane from a biomass-based synthesis gas mixture in their pilot plant for honeycomb methanation. The quality of this synthetic natural gas (SNG) is comparable to that of fossil natural gas and can be used as fuel in co-generation and heating plants as well as in cars or trucks. The pilot plant was designed and tested by researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Research Centre of the German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water (DVGW).

Heat and mobility still are mainly based on fossil sources. For the future sustainable and environmentally compatible energy supply in these sectors, however, chemical energy carriers from renewable sources, such as biogas or SNG, are also suited, experts say.

"Chemical energy carriers have a high energy density and are particularly attractive for the mobility sector," says Felix Ortloff, Head of the "Process Engineering" group of the DVGW Research Centre at KIT's Engler-Bunte Institute (EBI).

Biogas facilities produce the renewable gas mainly by fermenting biological waste. In countries with a large forestry sector, such as Finland or Sweden, there is a high potential for the production of SNG from waste wood. By means of biomass gasification, a is produced, which mainly consists of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and . This mix can then be converted into high-quality methane by methanation. Researchers of KIT's Engler-Bunte Institute and the DVGW Research Centre have now successfully tested a highly efficient methanation process for a period of several weeks in the city of Köping, Sweden.

The core components of the plant are honeycomb catalysts that were developed and optimized for use by the "Catalytic Fuel Conversion" group of the EBI Division of Fuel Chemistry and Technology (EBI ceb) headed by Siegfried Bajohr. "In a single-stage process, metallic nickel catalysts convert hydrogen and carbon monoxide and, in case of sufficient hydrogen supply, also carbon dioxide into methane and water," Siegfried Bajohr says.

Production of Renewable Gas from Waste Wood
Methanation pilot plant at Köping, Sweden. Credit: Felix Ortloff

The of container design was coupled to a biomass gasifier that supplies the carbon-containing gases required for chemical reaction. Within this complex, KIT's methanation plant reliably converted synthesis gas into methane for a period of several weeks. "The synthetic methane produced was then applied as fuel in the vehicles of our Swedish project partner Cortus AB," Bajohr adds.

"Apart from use in natural gas vehicles, methane can also be fed into the existing European natural gas infrastructure," says Felix Ortloff, EBI. In the opinion of the scientists, methane can already replace fossil natural gas in many applications today.

"Moreover, the technology can also be applied in the power-to-gas context," Ortloff adds. In this case, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis using renewable electric energy. Then, the hydrogen reacts with carbon dioxide to synthetic methane. Apart from strain reduction of power grids, integration of biogas or biomass gasification plants in power-to-gas concepts is considered to be advantageous by researchers. Production capacity of the might be doubled, as the carbon dioxide arising from biogas production is converted completely into .

"Our pilot plant is characterized by a highly compact design and, hence, high mobility," Ortloff says. "When installed in a cargo container, it can be tested anywhere at remote biogas facilities, in rural areas, or in combination with other CO2 sources that might be relevant in the future, such as various industrial processes," he says.

After operation in Sweden, the pilot plant now is on its way back to Karlsruhe. "The plant will be integrated in the infrastructure of the Energy Lab 2.0 on KIT's Campus North. We want to further improve honeycomb methanation and optimize the catalysts for use in much larger facilities" says Siegfried Bajohr, the scientific coordinator of the pilot plant.

Explore further: Flexible methane production from electricity and bio-mass

More information: For more information, see

Related Stories

Flexible methane production from electricity and bio-mass

January 9, 2015

Interlinkage of the power and gas grids is planned to make electricity supply sustainable and robust in the future. Fluctuating amounts of wind and solar power, for instance, might be stored in the form of the chemical energy ...

Power-to-gas facility with high efficiency

March 2, 2018

The natural gas network may serve as a buffer for weather-dependent electricity from the wind and sun. This requires economically efficient processes to use electricity for the production of chemical energy carriers. The ...

Porous silica protects nickel catalyst

June 8, 2018

By wrapping nickel nanoparticles in a protective shield of porous silica, A*STAR researchers have developed a highly active and robust catalyst that could help to produce methane from biomass.

Synthetic natural gas from excess electricity

January 6, 2014

"Power to gas" is a key concept when it comes to storing alternative energy. This process converts short-term excess electricity from photovoltaic systems and wind turbines into hydrogen. Combined with the greenhouse gas ...

Manure could heat your home

March 8, 2018

Farm manure could be a viable source of renewable energy to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

Recommended for you

In colliding galaxies, a pipsqueak shines bright

February 20, 2019

In the nearby Whirlpool galaxy and its companion galaxy, M51b, two supermassive black holes heat up and devour surrounding material. These two monsters should be the most luminous X-ray sources in sight, but a new study using ...

Physicists 'flash-freeze' crystal of 150 ions

February 20, 2019

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have "flash-frozen" a flat crystal of 150 beryllium ions (electrically charged atoms), opening new possibilities for simulating magnetism at the quantum ...

When does one of the central ideas in economics work?

February 20, 2019

The concept of equilibrium is one of the most central ideas in economics. It is one of the core assumptions in the vast majority of economic models, including models used by policymakers on issues ranging from monetary policy ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.