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ENGIE Lab CRIGEN: a call for projects to imagine the future of biomethane analysis

Energy Communities

During ENGIE Innovation Week in June 2016, ENGIE Lab CRIGEN launched a call for projects to identify innovative solutions for testing the quality of biomethane. The call for projects wrapped up in September 2016 after receiving 14 responses from startups, SMEs and research centers. Out of all of the solutions, 7 were selected to pitch for the jury.

Four projects were ultimately selected. Dairo Ballestas (Project Manager at ENGIE Lab CRIGEN) coordinated the call for projects and kindly answered our questions.

Q- Hello Dairo, first of all, why did you launch this call for projects?

Biomethane is a developing sector in France and will be an important part of the energy transition. So the sector’s various stakeholders need simpler, more operational solutions.

ADEME is planning to develop the sector in France, which could involve constructing between 500 and 1400 sites by 2030. Only about 26 exist as of January 2017. Such major growth predictions mean the sector needs to be both profitable and reliable.

Quality control of the biomethane always needs to take place before injection into the network. This is achieved, together with odorization and metering, at the injection station. Some compounds need to be monitored online for regulatory reasons, while others can be checked off-line at a given frequency. The goal is to make these checks cheaper while maintaining technical performance requirements set by gas transporters and distributors.

We launched this call for projects to boost the biomethane analysis sector, to identify innovative solutions and to support their development, based on the needs of the biomethane sector and the network operators.

ENGIE Lab CRIGEN works with many analytical solution providers. For example, we assess analyzers that will then be rolled out by the networks operators: distribution, storage, LNG terminals, etc. We also participate in standardization groups, as well as in international research projects. We are therefore a key contact with these suppliers for helping them adapt their solutions to operators’ needs.

Q - What did you think of the quality of the responses to this call for projects?

We shortlisted 7 of the 14 submitted applications. Those finalists then pitched for a selection committee from ENGIE Lab CRIGEN. Although some projects were somewhat incomplete at the beginning, we worked with the applicants and in the end all of them met the criteria.

We had some very interesting proposals, including in areas somewhat outside the scope of the call. For example, one involved a request for a partnership to install a biomethane site in Brazil. We will look for ways to see how we can work with them and help them develop their project.

Q- What criteria did you use to pick the 4 winners?

The main one was how innovative the solution were and what we could bring to the startups. There were some very interesting projects, a few that were almost ready to be implemented, but we focused on solutions that we could help develop using our expertise.

We also considered the technical performance of the solution and the number of measurable parameters. Lastly, we factored in the total cost of ownership of the measuring device to assess how it could be profitable.

Q- Who are the winners?

We selected two projects that use spectroscopic techniques to measure sulfur compounds and two others that use correlative techniques to measure the thermodynamic parameters of a gas.
We focused on solutions we believe we can help to improve using in house skills.

The 4 winners announced at the end of December are:

  • Blue Industry and Sciences, who measures sulfurous compounds through a spectroscopic laser technique
  • GMACX, who measures sulfur compounds via a UV spectroscopic absorption technique for the Hemera analyzer
  • TNO, who measures thermodynamic parameters and other compounds using capacitive sensors
  • Orbital, Orbital, who measures thermodynamic parameters by correlation, including H2 and O2 levels

Q. - What are you going to do with the four winners?

The winners will work with CRIGEN in 2017. They will be able to use our labs and get help from our technical teams. The goal is to help them develop their solutions and identify next steps that will enable them to meet the needs of operators in the biomethane sector.

For CRIGEN, the call for projects didn’t meet a specific short-term need. Instead, we wanted to raise solutions for the future. For us, all of the exchanges involved have been very interesting, and I think it has also been very useful for project owners to imagine the future.

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