Innovation That Matters

The system that uses sunlight to produce natural gas deep underground | Photo source RAG Austria AG / Karin Lohberger Photography

Using sunlight and wind to produce natural gas during winter months

Agriculture & Energy

A system in development may compensate for the seasonal fluctuations in energy harvest and demand by using electrolysis and natural bacteria to create methane

Spotted:  For many countries, using solar energy during the winter is out of the question. However, energy company RAG Austria has designed an Underground Sun Conversion system that uses sunlight to produce natural gas deep underground. The project is referred to as “Geological history in fast motion“. 

RAG Austria AG is Austria’s biggest gas storage business and one of Europe’s top gas storage facility operators. The project is being carried out through a European Union project with several Austrian and Swiss companies and institutions. 

During the summer, excess power generated by solar panels and wind turbines is utilised to make hydrogen through an electrolysis procedure, which separates water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then injected into natural porous sandstone deposits (amongst these are depleted natural gas reserves), coupled with liquid carbon dioxide. 

Underground, naturally existing bacteria converts hydrogen and CO2 into methane gas and water. During the winter, the methane is pumped back up to the surface, where it forms the primary component of carbon-neutral, natural gas. 

“The energy carrier gas can be transported in large quantities safely and invisibly in existing underground infrastructure and environmentally friendly stored in natural gas reservoirs. Due to its good geological preconditions for storage, Austria can make a significant contribution to Europe‘s security of supply,” says the company. 

Written By: Katrina Lane

Explore more: Agriculture & Energy Innovations | Sustainability Innovations

Email: stephan.bauer@rag-austria.at

Website: underground-sun-conversion.at

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