Team BtX at #24h2challenge

Vacation on a farm – differently

September 29th, 2020 | by

It’s 7:40 am, the sun is rising and we reach the Lefkeshof, a dairy farm which is running in its 5th generation of the Schleupen family. We have a special connection to Lefkeshof, because the youngest son of the Schleupen family, Max, works at the IOB. The farm is managed by Werner and Hanne Schleupen and their son Bernd Schleupen. The farm accommodates about 300 milk cows (and two chickens, one dog, two cats and several calves), which obviously produce a lot of dung. 19 years ago, the Schleupen’s decided to build a biogas plant to produce biogas through the fermentation of biomass, which is used to produce green electricity in a combined heat and power plant. By this process they can reduce the carbon footprint linked to the milk production. The fermentation residues can still be used to fertilize the fields – a win-win situation. 2014 the biogas industry contributed above 18 % to the renewable electricity production in Germany. The plants are subsidized for 20 years from the time of commissioning – but what happens after that?

In total, there are about 9500 biogas plants in Germany, whose initial subsidy might run out in the future. Without an economic alternative, the operation of the plants is not worthwhile for most farmers and the plants will be shut down. A new idea is needed and it could be BtX (Bio to X)!

As we are at a hydrogen rally, we concentrate on biomass to hydrogen. How does that work? Biogas can be converted to hydrogen via “steam reforming”. Steam reforming is not an unknown process, in fact it is a process that has been established for decades, but usually based on natural gas. The biogas allows a renewable gas to be used instead of the fossil energy carrier, thus producing “green” hydrogen.

And what do we achieve if we produce hydrogen with all our biogas plants in Germany?

Hydrogen could be produced decentrally at thousands of locations, not only when the sun shines and the wind blows. So when we think about our rally and hydrogen mobility, we could fill up our hydrogen tanks at all these locations.

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