New lab for renewable gases at EnTranCe

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marcel koenis.jpg

EnTranCe is building a laboratory this year to optimize the production of renewable gases. Director of Business Development Marcel Koenis is closely involved.

Text/photo: Luuk Steemers

'Energy and raw materials are closely related. For example, energy can be electricity, heat in water, or gas molecules that carry energy. Besides being an energy carrier, natural gas is also a raw material from which clothing, plastics and fertilizer are made. The energy transition is therefore also a substance transition. Director of Business Development Marcel Koenis is directly involved in the development of a new lab at EnTranCe, the living lab that focuses on the energy transition. 'The new lab, with the provisional working name, the EnTranCe Renewable Gas Lab, will be an experimental environment in which we develop new processes for the energy and resource transition. It is a wonderful collaboration between the Bio Based Economy Research Centre, which deals with green chemistry, and EnTranCe, which works on energy innovation. The University of Groningen is also a partner.

Lego bricks

'By renewable gases we mean biogas as well as hydrogen and syngas. Biogas comes from biowaste, synthetic gases are made chemically by combining the C's and the H's of, for example, CO2 and hydrogen, H2, like Lego bricks into methane, CH4, of which the well-known Groningen natural gas largely consists.' In the new lab, researchers will focus on two process technologies that optimize renewable gas production: fermentation and electrolysis. 'The fermentation of biowaste into biogas is familiar to most people. Electrolysis, the feeding of electric current through matter is less well known. You can make hydrogen by running electricity through water, H2O,  thus separating the oxygen from the hydrogen. You can also apply electrolysis on manure and other substances, and that is what we are going to investigate here. Fermentation is already much closer to real-life applications for the market. Hundreds of millions of cubic meters of biogas and green gas are already being made every year. Electrolysis still needs considerable innovation before we can put it to practical use.'

Construction of the new lab has already begun in an existing location on the EnTranCe site on Zernikelaan. A bio-digester for kitchen waste has been standing there for some time. 'We must first modify this swill digester for research and safety. Then there will be a space for various electrolysis installations. There will also be a separate hall for logistics processes, for the supply of bio-waste materials, for example.' There will also be an area for the analysis of substances and bacteria. 'The costs for the construction, involving some hundreds of thousands of euros, will be financed for the most part by GasTerra.'


According to Marcel, the output of fermentation can be the input for electrolysis and vice versa. 'We know that the residual products of digestion are electrolyzable. That will be one of the research projects in the new lab. After fermentation of biowaste, sludge remains, the so-called digestate; if you electrolyze that, you can extract any toxins and produce hydrogen. If you put that hydrogen back into the fermentation process, you can increase gas production and reduce the amount of residual waste.'


Despite the fact that the lab will not be ready until the end of 2023, several research projects are already underway in the lab. In the project Fermolysis with the Dairy Campus Leeuwarden and LTO Noord, research is being done on fermentation and electrolysis of certain fertilizers and residual products from dairy production. In addition, the project WAVEBE has already been set up, a grant is being applied for from SIA. This project focuses on microbiological extraction of hydrogen from biomass through fermentation. Electrolysis will also play a role in this. In fact, the behavior of bacteria can be influenced with electricity. The project Making City, which is already running in a number of European cities, deals with the conversion of restaurant waste into biogas. Marcel: "In addition, we will be busy setting up new research. Together with the University of Groningen and the New Energy Coalition, a network of knowledge institutions that aims to accelerate the energy transition, we will develop new projects for the EnTranCe Renewable Gas Lab in the coming years. For example, we are thinking of a collaboration with water purification companies.

Signing ceremony

On 22 February GasTerra and the Hanzehogeschool will sign an agreement on the construction of the EnTranCe Renewable Gas Lab. The official name of the lab will also be announced then.

From 6 to 11 February is the Week of the Circular Economy. During this week, some articles on circularity will be published on this site.

Fields of interest

  • Environment