The P2X Kopernikus project

The P2X Kopernikus project

How can we store renewable energy?

The constantly increasing proportion of electricity supply that’s accounted for by renewable energies already means that in high winds and on sunny days, large amounts of power are being produced this way. In a few years‘ time, in the middle of a windy summer’s day, Germany’s entire energy needs will be met by electricity generated from wind and photovoltaics. On such days however, the increasing expansion of renewable energies will produce more electricity than is actually needed at the time. Since there aren’t enough options for storing this electricity at the moment, and this situation seems unlikely to change quickly enough, we’ll have to find other ways.

„How do we want to store the electricity from renewable sources: in liquids, in gas or in basic chemicals? All are possible, but which option looks likely to be most effective? To find out which technologies - or combination of technologies - is best suited to the future, we need the Power-to-X project."

Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka on 13 October 2016, speaking at Jülich.

The more flexible our usage is, the more efficient the overall energy system will be. This is the only way we can guarantee a secure, affordable and environmentally friendly energy supply into the future.

What are the possible solutions?

Examples of possible strategies for the flexible use of electricity generated from volatile renewable sources include:

  • gaseous substances such as hydrogen or methane (Power-to-Gas)

  • liquids such as fuels for mobility (Power-to-Liquid)

  • basic chemicals for the chemical industry (Power-to-Chemicals)

The Power-to-X routes proposed here offer several possibilities; the economic case for their implementation must first however be developed and demonstrated. Furthermore, the Power-to-X approach is of exceptional importance if we are also to deploy renewable wind and solar energy in the mobility and heating sectors, which together account for some 80 % of energy consumption compared to just 20 % of the electricity sector.

The key research topics are:

  • Medium and large-scale electrolysis systems for manufacturing hydrogen from surplus wind and solar electricity, research into materials for high-pressure and high-temperature electrolysis, demonstration projects and optimisation with respect to flexibility, efficiency, throughput and costs, reduction of the use of precious metals; testing under the real-world conditions to be expected operating with large amounts of electricity from renewables.
  • Trialling of various process routes for Power-to-Liquid and Power-to-Chemicals (e.g. methanol, Fischer-Tropsch fuels, higher-order alcohols), development of process designs, pilot and demonstration projects and the comparison of these alternative conversion routes based on their CO2 footprints and costs, evaluation of systemic factors including comprehensive cost-benefit analyses.

Who is taking part in P2X?

The “Power-to-X” Kopernikus project: Flexible use of renewable resources 

Power-to-X refers to technologies that convert electricity generated from renewable sources into physical energy stores, energy carriers, and energy-intensive chemical products. Energy from renewable sources can then be used in the form of made-to-measure fuels for motor vehicles or in improved plastics and chemical products with high added-value. With the selected “Power-to-X” (P2X) project a national research platform is currently being constructed within the Kopernikus programme for this complex subject area.

What is the objective of the Kopernikus project?

With Power-to-X technologies, electricity from renewable sources is first converted electro-chemically into physical resources such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide and synthesis gas. These physical resources must then be efficiently stored, distributed and converted into the end-product. To accomplish this requires innovative solutions, which are to be developed within the project into ecologically, economically and socially-beneficial processes. In this way Power-to-X is contributing to the objective of decarbonisation of the energy system, which the Federal Government is striving to achieve through the Energiewende, while at the same time reducing the proportion of fossil resources used in the important key markets of transport and chemicals.

What makes the consortium so attractive?

In total 18 research institutions, 27 industrial companies and three civil-society bodies are participating in the P2X project. New technological developments are to be brought to industrial maturity within ten years. In the first funding phase, the research is focussing on the complete value chain, from electrical energy through to physical energy carriers and products. In the process the project is also drawing on existing large-scale projects and available infrastructures and expanding the interfaces to industry. In addition to the funding from the BMBF, the industrial partners in P2X are contributing research services to the value of another €8.3 million. The RWTH Aachen and the Jülich research centre are already collaborating intensively in this research area within the JARA Energy section of the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA). They are coordinating the project jointly with DECHEMA Gesellschaft für Chemische Technik und Biotechnologie e.V. (Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology).

Contribution to the energy system

The project provides the conditions for the industrial-scale storage of over 90% of renewable energies in physical carriers which will be available for the future, even if this isn’t needed immediately. In this way the project is creating processes for producing chemical feedstocks, gaseous energy carriers and fuels using this electricity from renewable sources. In addition to reducing the load on the supply network, this will make available sustainable processes for manufacturing physical resources that will replace a large proportion of the fossil raw materials. By using CO2 from exhaust gases as raw material, and electricity from renewable sources, these physical resources are completely climate-neutral

Contact person:

RWTH Aachen, ITMC - Institute of Technical and Macromolecular Chemistry (ITMC), Professorship for Technical Chemistry and Petrolchemistry, Contact person: Prof. Dr. Walter Leitner

Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Institute of Energy and Climate Research, Fundamental Electrochemistry (IEK-9), Contact person: Prof. Dr. Rüdiger-A. Eichel


 Other partners

Associate Partners