On August 30, 2023, Gaznat inaugurated the Innovation Lab at Aigle (VD), the largest industrial-scale laboratory in French-speaking Switzerland for the development of CO2-neutral renewable gases. At the heart of Gaznat’s new energy project, called GreenGas, and developed on the site of Gaznat’s dispatching center at Aigle, the Innovation Lab is home to two major innovations that have reached maturity, and are supported by Gaznat through its chairs at EPFL.
The prototypes of the methanation reactor and new types of membranes for CO2 capture, both developed in the EPFL Valais-Wallis laboratories in partnership with Gaznat, are now being tested on an industrial scale in the new Innovation Lab.
The Innovation Lab will also provide space for other innovations in the energy sector originating from EPFL, the universities of applied sciences or start-up companies. The investment budget for the GreenGas project and the Innovation Lab is CHF 5.8 million, including grants from the SFOE, the VSG research fund and the canton of Vaud.
GreenGas was built to meet the electrical and thermal energy needs of the Aigle site by integrating a power-to-gas plant consisting in particular of the methanisation reactor to produce CO2-neutral synthesis gas from the electricity generated by the photovoltaic modules. These solar modules were installed on all the Dispatch buildings between June 2022 and February 2023.
The commissioning of new, nanoporous graphene membranes took place in August 2023 with the aim of capturing the CO2 produced by the combustion gases emitted by the two combined heat and power (CHP) plants.
In the medium term, Gaznat intends to use the equipment and innovations tested at the Aigle site to cover its entire energy needs for electricity and heat, while producing CO2-neutral synthesis gas from renewable sources that will be fed into the gas grid in western Switzerland.
From the laboratory to industry
The Innovation Lab’s mission is to become Western Switzerland’s test platform for energy innovation for projects funded at EPFL, but also for universities and start-ups wishing to test their research results in an industrial environment. The Innovation Lab consists of 12 containers, each of which can accommodate one system. Currently, six containers are used for the electrolyser, the methanation reactor, the hydrogen storage, the CHP system, the membranes for CO2 capture and the monitoring system that ensures all the equipment is monitored. The projects financed by Gaznat, which are being tested in the Innovation Lab under industrial conditions, all have the goal of being brought to market.
Securing energy supply with seasonal storage using power-to-gas.
The GreenGas project is promising for the production of CO2-neutral synthesis gas and takes on an even greater dimension when coupled with seasonal gas storage. To achieve this goal, the power-to-gas plant being tested in the Innovation Lab is key, as it produces synthesis gas by utilising the surplus renewable energy generated in the summer. With this plant, surplus electricity generated by renewable energy sources such as solar, wind or hydroelectric power plants can be stored in the form of methane (synthetic natural gas) or hydrogen. This is a particularly promising technology that can help ensure Switzerland’s sustainable energy supply.