Gas-fired power plants are climate-friendly and capable of providing base-load power. They can be used to compensate fluctuations of renewable energy production. As they produce both power and heat and can be run with regenerative fuels, they have major economic and ecological advantages. At their joint Gas Engine Test Laboratory (GEL), KIT and Caterpillar plan to further enhance these advantages. For this, they invested EUR 11.8 million.
“With its GEL project, KIT establishes itself as a center of research and a company well-equipped for the future,” Dr. Ulrich Breuer, KIT Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs, says. “We can now further develop a technology that is of high importance to the energy transition and, at the same time, make our own infrastructure environmentally compatible and economically efficient.”
“For Germany as a location of industry, it is important that companies and research cooperate closely,” adds Heinrich Baas, Head of Engineering, Caterpillar Energy Solutions. “Together, we can develop innovations that will help solve global challenges, such as cli mate change, and be successful in global competition.” Caterpillar Energy Solutions and KIT both have longstanding experience in the energy sector. Moreover, the MWM Company that has been part of Caterpillar since 2011 was established by automotive pioneer Carl Benz, graduate of the Polytechnical School, a precursory institute of KIT.
„Gemeinsam können wir Innovationen entwickeln, die zur Lösung globaler Herausforderungen wie dem Klimawandel beitragen und die im globalen Wettbewerb bestehen.“ Mit der Kooperation von Caterpillar Energy Solutions und KIT verknüpfen sich zwei traditionsreiche Akteure: Der Gründer des Unternehmens MWM, das seit 2011 Teil von Caterpillar ist, war der Autopionier Carl Benz, Absolvent des Polytechnikums Karlsruhe, einem der Vorläuferinstitute des KIT.
The Gas Engine Test Laboratory (GEL) accommodates two large-scale gas engines of 4.5 megawatts electric power each. The engines are 9.3 m long, 2.75 m wide, 3.45 m high, and have a weight of 52 tons. Being a cogeneration power plant, GEL supplies KIT’s Campus North with power and heat. Thanks to the efficient technology, KIT saves operation costs in the amount EUR 600,000 every year. Primary energy consumption is reduced by about 12% and 10,000 t less carbon dioxide are emitted annually. KIT’s investment in the amount of EUR 4.5 million will be recovered after eight years. KIT, one of the biggest research universities in Europe with more than 9000 employees and about 25,000 students operates laboratories and facilities at several locations. At Campus North the KIT and further institutions annually consume about 120 gigawatt-hours of electric and 80 gigawatt-hours of thermal energy. Within the framework of KIT’s Zukunftscampus (Sustainable Campus) project, sustainability of the campuses is being enhanced by e.g. establishing a solar power storage park, energy-related refurbishment of buildings, or purchase of green electricity and district heating.
Panorama photo of the Gas Engine Test Laboratory. (Photo: M. Kohouk/KIT)
The GEL as a research facility represents one of the biggest engine test beds in Germany. Instead of studying the behavior of a single cylinder on the laboratory scale, GEL allows for investigating complete engines. Long-term research collaboration between KIT and Caterpillar Energy Solutions will profit from GEL’s integration into operation of a big research center. In the first phase, long-term tests will focus on exhaust gas cleaning, efficiency, engine components, and control technology. Later on, other research projects on alternative fuels, combustion methods, materials, and engine systems may be agreed upon. If necessary, two smaller gas engines of up to 1000 kilowatt power may be connected to the existing infrastructure. Investment costs of both partners of GEL total about EUR 11.8 million.
Gas-fired power plants are considered an important element of the energy transition. Contrary to coal-fired power plants, they can be controlled flexibly and they are capable of providing base-load power contrary to the wind and sun. In the short term, gas-fired power plants can close the gap between supply and demand of electricity until large-scale, sustainable, and economically efficient battery storage systems will have been developed. Gas engines can be run not only with conventional natural gas, but also with biogas from renewable sources and with regenerative methane. This will ensure wide acceptance of gas-fired power plants within a climate-neutral energy supply system in the long term.
More information on the Zukunftscampus Staff Unit of KIT:
(in German only)
About Caterpillar Energy Solutions
Its brands MWM and Cat make Caterpillar Energy Solutions stand for highly efficient and environmentally compatible solutions for decentralized energy production. The product portfolio covers gas engines, power plants, and cogeneration plants. At the location of the company office in Mannheim, automotive pioneer Carl Benz established the “Mechanische Werkstätten Mannheim” (MWM, Mannheim Mechanical Workshops) in 1871. Find more information at www.caterpillar-energy-solutions.de
More about the KIT Energy Center: http://www.energy.kit.edu
Being „The Research University in the Helmholtz Association“, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility and information. For this, about 9,300 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 25,500 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life.