ZSW has been intensively investigating power-to-x technology and the related fields of hydrogen production and methanation for more than a decade now. In addition to developing components and plants, we also focus on topics such as basic engineering of end-to-end pilot plants destined for longer-term operation, site development, plant setups and layouts, certification and factory qualification.

The ZSW team has honed the skills needed to execute these tasks for customers and provide consulting and support for their projects.

Plant Concepts & Basic Engineering
Source: ZSW adapts infrastructure for sustainable mobility in accordance with 2013_e-mobile_hydrogen

Drawing on a deep well of experience gained with our in-house methanation, electrolysis and P2X test plants, we have designed plants in funded projects and on behalf of customers. Many of these designs we adapted to suit very specific conditions. Some plants required special pressure, temperature and purity levels from the product gas. Others had space constraints that demanded tailored layouts, custom setups, underground installation and deployment alongside other systems. Still others required special safety precaustions.

Depending on the job order, basic engineering can extend beyond the plant’s fundamental design to include a great deal more, for example, detailed functional block diagrams, piping and instrumentation flowcharts, the subsystem layout and process descriptions. We may also be called upon to develop an installation plan and draft proposals for the building, containers and superstructure, the safety concept, and specifications for internal system construction and tenders.

ZSW has developed and implemented new systems for the power-to-gas sector in publically funded projects such as the joint power-to-X projects  PtG250 (funding code 0325275)PtG250-II (funding code 0325709), P2G-Elektrolyse (funding code 0325524) and ecoPtG (funding code 03ET6066) sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), and the   Lighthouse Project Power-to-Gas Baden Württemberg funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs Baden-Württemberg. Our researchers independently developed a design for a methanation plant for a double reactor system and three designs for alkaline electrolysis plants, which have since been implemented and approved for operation. At the time of writing, we were working on another five designs for customer-specific electrolysis plants and an improved design for a methanation plate reactor in projects currently underway. Some are funded by industry, two of which are electrolyzers that already up and running.


Although design and basic engineering entails a great deal of effort, applying for the building and operating permit in compliance with the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) is the most complex and lengthy formal step when planning the construction of a P2X plant. A plant also has to be inspected and certified in compliance with the Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health (BetrSichV). This is a prerequisite for commissioning and the granting of the official operating permit.

The application and approval process usually takes several months. It involves steps such as assessing safety, preparing a master safety plan, soliciting expert opinions, and making the formal arrangements with the approving authorities.

Energiedienst AG’s commercial power-to-gas plant at Wyhlen am Hochrhein with ZSW’s connected R&D plant

ZSW has gained a great deal of experience licensing P2X systems – particularly hydrogen production plants – in the course of many projects pursued on behalf of customers and for our research objectives.

With the benefit of this experience, ZSW is able to design P2X plants, provide basic engineering service, and offer the assistance needed to help third-party plants obtain approval.

Technical Monitoring
Technical monitoring of a P2G plant via a remote data link

Technical monitoring is all about tracking performance and optimizing the operations of process engineering systems such as P2X electrolysis and end-to-end P2X systems. All relevant measured variables within the process and at the external and internal boundaries – for example, those separating individual plant components – have to be captured, processed and assessed to this end.

This inceptive task at the beginning of each monitoring process is to develop a monitoring concept tailored to the given plant, regardless of which of the measured variables are to be tracked. This requires a detailed analysis of the plant and includes a definition of the process and plant that describes the target figures. This definition provides the blueprint for determining the appropriate measuring points and, if necessary, selecting additional measuring equipment. In the best case, this concept will have already been created at an early turn during the plant’s initial design. The next step is to install the monitoring system. This includes deploying sensors, data acquisition devices, local memory such as a database server to store readings, and automated, computer-assisted tools to further process captured data.

Once the monitoring system is in place it is brought online to assess measured data and develop an automated report tailored to the plant and purpose. This report that may provide a general, integral overview or track the measured parameters in greater detail over time, as the situation may require. Drawing our conclusions from this data analysis, we can then develop recommendations to improve plant operations and pinpoint possibilities for optimizing processes. Technical monitoring can also provide the underpinning for DIN EN ISO 50001-compliant plant energy management systems (EMS) – for example, for energy-intensive companies to obtain a partial exemption from the EEG levy.

ZSW has comprehensive interdisciplinary know-how all along the technical monitoring process chain and across various performance classes from decentralized energy systems such as combined heat and power generation in household energy supply systems to centrally installed energy systems in the industrial megawatt performance range. With this expertise, we are able to help partners and customers develop concepts, and implement and optimize systems. Our references include technical monitoring for Audi AG’s 6-MW power-to-gas plant at Werlte (WOMBAT), technical monitoring for Energiedienst AG’s 1-MW hydrogen production plant at Grenzach-Wyhlen (PtG-BW), and scientific monitoring for Callux, a lighthouse project aimed to ramp up fuel-cell heating appliances for market launch.

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