“Climate technology methane electrolysis” in test operation

“Methane electrolysis”: Production of H2 and solid carbon without CO2 emissions starts in Austria’s first demo plant in Upper Austria.
Opening of the "methane electrolysis" demonstration plant in Kremsmünster (Upper Austria) From left to right: Markus Achleitner, Upper Austrian Provincial Councillor for Economic Affairs and Research / Markus Mitteregger, CEO of RAG Austria AG / Magnus Brunner, Minister for Mining / Jens Hanke, founder and Managing Director of Graforce GmbH -c- RAG Austria AG/APA-Fotoservice/Krügl

Austria’s largest ground-mounted solar thermal plant was ceremonially opened a few days ago in Mürzzuschlag by In the model region for 100% green energy supply, the RAG Energy Valley in Krift near Kremsmünster (Upper Austria), Austria’s first methane electrolysis plant in an industrial environment was put into operation in the presence of Federal Minister Magnus Brunner, Head of Section Jürgen Schneider of the Federal Ministry of Culture, Transport, Innovation and Technology and Markus Achleitner, Upper Austrian Provincial Councillor for Economic Affairs and Research. In future, this pioneering climate technology will be used at the Kremsmünster site to break down the raw material methane (natural gas) into hydrogen and high-purity, solid carbon without CO2 emissions using solar power. This climate-friendly energy and raw material innovation will not only provide storable and climate-neutral hydrogen from a single source, but also the currently scarce raw material “solid carbon”, which is important for agriculture and other diverse uses in industry.


„Klimaschutz ist eine der zentralen Aufgaben unserer Generation. Unsere Ziele sind ambitioniert: bis 2030 100% erneuerbarer Strom in und aus Österreich und bis 2040 Klimaneutralität in Österreich – zehn Jahre vor der EU. Damit wir diese Klimaziele erreichen, brauchen wir Investitionen, Innovation und Zusammenarbeit. Wir dürfen uns jedenfalls nicht auf einige wenige Technologien konzentrieren, sondern müssen weiter technologieoffen bleiben. „Die RAG setzt mit Österreichs erster Demoanlage, die Erdgas ohne CO2-Emissionen für die Produktion von Wasserstoff und festem, elementarem Kohlenstoff nutzt, genau auf diese Technologieoffenheit, die so dringend nötig ist“: Wasserstoff leistet einen wichtigen Beitrag zur ganzjährigen Versorgungssicherheit – gleichzeitig ist das gewonnene hochwertige Carbon wertvoller Rohstoff für Landwirtschaft, Batterien, Computerchips und Kohlenstofffasern. Eine Win-Win-Situation für Klima und Standort!“, sagt Bergbau-Minister Magnus Brunner.

“At RAG Energy Valley in Krift near Kremsmünster, we are demonstrating how regions and urban centres can be supplied with green energy all year round. In addition to the storage and production of hydrogen from water, the climate technology “methane electrolysis” is another key element and a milestone for the energy transition. “The natural gas from our own domestic production is broken down into CO2-neutral solid carbon, which is important for agriculture and industry, and storable, climate-friendly hydrogen with the help of solar power, which we also produce here on site,” says Markus Mitteregger, CEO of RAG Austria AG, emphasising the importance of this pioneering technology.


A major advantage over alternative production methods for renewable hydrogen is the significantly lower energy consumption

This innovative air conditioning technology was developed by Graforce GmbH from Berlin – it is being implemented and optimised on an industrial scale for the first time in Austria by RAG Austria AG. “Hydrogen is the key to a CO2-neutral economy. Our modular plants enable the production of CO2-free hydrogen with high efficiency and lower infrastructure costs. The technology we have developed closes important material cycles, enables key industries to achieve greater sustainability and climate protection and is economical at the same time. We are seeing great international interest in this technology and are delighted about the joint showcase project with RAG Austria,” explains Jens Hanke, founder and Managing Director of Graforce GmbH.


Subsequently, the hydrogen produced can be stored seasonally in RAG energy storage facilities such as the “Underground Sun Storage” in Pilsbach and Gampern or used as industrial hydrogen. In the RAG H2 cogeneration plant (CHP) Krift near Kremsmünster, Austria’s first 100% hydrogen power plant, this climate-neutral hydrogen is used for the RAG site’s own electricity and heat supply. In the coming winters, the surplus energy can also be used to supply up to 800 households in the Kremsmünster region with green district heating and green electricity.


Wonder material – solid carbon

Due to intensive agricultural use in recent decades, up to 50% of the carbon in soils has been lost through erosion or humus loss. Climate change is adding further challenges, e.g. long periods of drought. The use of carbon from “methane electrolysis” offers great potential to improve soil quality and thus ensure sustainable agricultural production. Otherwise, there is a risk of massive crop failures in the coming decades, jeopardising food security. Our results from several glasshouse and field trials show that carbon improves plant nutrient availability and the drought stress resistance of plants. By adding nutrient-rich residues (e.g. compost or liquid manure), a valuable fertiliser can also be generated. In the next series of trials, the effect will be extended to different soil types and other crops, taking into account current and expected climate changes. Based on these promising research results, RAG and RWA (Raiffeisen Ware Austria) now intend to intensify their existing collaboration, particularly in product development.

“In view of the current and future challenges of global change and global warming, carbon from methane electrolysis can make an important contribution to safeguarding soil quality and agricultural production,” emphasises Markus Puschenreiter, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna.

High potential for a wide range of applications


Solid carbon is also a valuable raw material for the sustainable production of building structures, batteries, computer chips, carbon fibres and for the manufacture of carbon-based materials. They are used in numerous sectors such as medical technology, aerospace, sports and leisure and the high-tech industry.

A total of around 120 scientists at Montanuniversität Leoben are currently conducting research in this core research area. Since 2022, the numerous activities at 25 chairs have been centrally coordinated in the Strategic Core Research Area “Hydrogen and Carbon”.

“The solid carbon produced during methane decomposition also opens up a wide range of new applications and fields of research, particularly for sustainable agriculture and forestry,” says Peter Moser, Rector designate of Montanuniversität Leoben, enthusiastically about the ongoing development in this area. “The close cooperation with external partners such as RAG and BOKU enables the bundling of individual specialist competences and thus forms the basis for targeted and, above all, application-oriented research.”

“Especially for Upper Austria as the No. 1 economic and industrial state, hydrogen is a decisive key factor in making the location even more future-proof. It is therefore all the more pleasing that RAG is setting another milestone towards a CO2-neutral economy here in Upper Austria with its ‘Energy Valley’ in Krift near Kremsmünster with the CO2-free production of hydrogen. Following the Underground Sun Storage in Rubensdorf/Gampern and the hydrogen cogeneration plant also in Krift near Kremsmünster, RAG is now launching Austria’s first demo plant in which hydrogen and solid carbon are produced from natural gas using methane electrolysis without generating CO2 emissions. This demonstration plant is an important building block in the transformation of the energy system towards renewable sources. Our province in particular is actively driving this change with the Upper Austrian Hydrogen Offensive 2030 in the fields of transformation of energy-intensive industry, materials technologies and seasonal energy storage. Our own Upper Austrian hydrogen research centre will be launched in Wels in November, in which the province of Upper Austria will invest six million euros in the first stage of implementation,” said Markus Achleitner, Upper Austrian Provincial Councillor for Economic Affairs and Research.

“With a large number of extreme weather events such as heatwaves and flooding, this summer has impressively demonstrated the need to implement rapid climate protection measures. In addition to the widespread implementation of existing technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this also requires research and innovation. Methane electrolysis technology is an option for the production of climate-neutral hydrogen and – if biomethane is used – even has the potential for negative carbon emissions. The sustainable use of this elementary carbon is of crucial importance in terms of the complete utilisation of resources. On behalf of the BMK, a broad consortium led by the University of Leoben has analysed numerous aspects of this: The nature of the carbon, its use in building materials and in agriculture as well as possible economic repercussions,” says Head of Section Jürgen Schneider, Federal Ministry for Climate Protection.


Research in Green Tech Valley:

Montanuniversität Leoben


The University of Leoben has been intensively involved in research topics relating to the two resources hydrogen and carbon for several years. A total of around 120 scientists at the University of Leoben are currently conducting research in this core research area. Since 2022, the numerous activities at 25 chairs have been centrally coordinated in the Strategic Core Research Area SCoRe A+ Hydrogen and Carbon. In addition to the promising potential uses of hydrogen as a raw material and energy carrier, research activities are focussing in particular on the production of hydrogen using methane pyrolysis. In addition, other key topics in the hydrogen value chain, such as the storage and distribution of hydrogen, are being further developed in research and demonstration projects with a view to industrial implementation.


Stefan Pestl
Leiter Unternehmenskommunikation

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