UMAS: Underground Methanization in Aquifer Storage
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UMAS Project starts: An underground energy storage for Berlin

June 10th 2020 | Today’s kick-off meeting marks the beginning of the two-year research project UMAS that will investigate the future use of the Berlin Natural Gas Storage Facility, which has been shut down since 2017, as an energy storage facility for electricity from renewable sources. In this project, RLI is modeling the energy system surrounding the storage facility and investigating how it can best be integrated into the grid.

UMAS stands for “Underground Methanisation in the Aquifer Storage”. The Berlin Natural Gas Storage Facility is located in the district of Charlottenburg, about 800 meters below the earth’s surface. It is a porous sandstone layer that can absorb gas and hold it safely – natural gas was stored here until 2017. Using it as a storage for renewable energy instead, works in two steps: : First, surplus electricity from renewable energy sources, such as that available on days with strong winds and strong solar radiation, is converted into hydrogen by electrolysis, also known as the “power-to-gas” process. The resulting hydrogen is then fed into the underground storage facility and mixed with CO2. Biological methanisation produces methane gas that can be used directly in Berlin’s natural gas network – for example for heat or mobility.

“Compared with the direct use of renewable energy as electricity, this naturally means a detour in which losses occur,” explains RLI Project Manager Jann Launer. “Nevertheless, the technology does have advantages, because flexibility is needed to balance out the fluctuating generation of renewable energy and the energy demand in an energy system. The coupling of the electricity and gas sectors can make an important contribution to this”.

In UMAS, experts from the fields of microbiology, biochemistry, process engineering, geology, economics, and energy system research work together to explore the potential of Berlin’s Natural Gas Storage Facility for the energy transition. RLI focuses on the integration of the storage facility into the Berlin energy system and on the involvement of local residents. UMAS is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy within the framework of the 7th Energy Research Program.