German Minister of Economics unveils new Tognum fuel cell at Erdinger brewery

Posted on June 08, 2009

  • Erdinger Weißbräu brewery uses biogas for power and heat generation
  • Highly efficient and ultra-clean power for the brewing process
  • First ever HotModule fuel cell plant in the food sector

Friedrichshafen/Erding, 8 June 2009. The German Federal Minister of Economics and Technology, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, unveiled a new cogeneration fuel cell system from the Tognum brand mtu Onsite Energy at Erdinger Weißbräu brewery. The HotModule HM300 distributed energy system generates electrical power and heat from biogas. The electrical power output is about 240 kW while the thermal output is more than 200 kW. The Erdinger Weißbräu brewery uses the thermal energy to heat the brewery buildings and to heat water for the brewing process.
“This innovative fuel cell serves to combine what is sensible in terms of energy policy with what is necessary for climate protection. Global warming and the decline in fossil fuels not only require a consistent expansion in the use of renewable energy sources, but even more so, an increased utilization of efficient and innovative technologies. Here is where our future prospects lie – particularly for the overall German economy as such“, said the Federal Minister of Economics and Technology zu Guttenberg, pointing out the innovative status of this particular project.
“The brewing industry is an intensively energy-consuming business. For this reason, we are continuously looking for possibilities to use energy more efficiently and to become less dependent on fossil fuels“, adds Peter Liebert, Managing Director of the Engineering segment of the private brewery. Erdinger uses vast quantities of water at various temperatures for the brewing process and to clean the brewing equipment. Before being flushed into the public sewage system, the waste water is pre-conditioned via an in-house anaerobic pre-sewage treatment system. A by-product of this process is biogas with an 85 percent methane content, making it an excellent energy source for the fuel cell - a regenerative and almost cost-free waste product, facilitating annual CO2 reductions of up to 1,200 tons. A gas cleansing system also developed by Tognum subsidiary mtu Onsite Energy Fuel Cell Systems in Ottobrunn near Munich removes possible sulphur residues from the biogas which would otherwise be detrimental to the fuel cell stack. At a temperature of approximately 650°C, the biogas is then converted into hydrogen which reacts electrochemically with the airborne oxygen. Almost 50 percent of the biogas energy content is converted into electrical power, while more than 40 percent translates into waste heat, which has a temperature of roughly 400°C. Taken together, the result is an exceptionally streamlined overall efficiency of more than 90 percent.
“The brewery’s heat requirement levels, which are continuously high throughout the year, make the HotModule the perfect system solution for this type of application, since its inherent advantages come to full fruition when in continuous operation“, explained Christof von Branconi, Tognum COO of the Onsite Energy & Components Business Unit.
Apart from its high degree of efficiency, the fuel cell’s particular forté is its emission levels, which are negligibly low. Nitrous and sulphur oxides are nearly non-detectable, and carbon monoxide emissions are almost
ten times lower than in engine-powered cogeneration systems. For this reason, the term “exhaust gas“ does not apply for the fuel cell: it’s simply called exhaust air.