Using Gas to Reach Climate Goals

Gas contributes significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gases. Gas is an ecologically advantageous energy used to create flexibility in electricity markets. In the long run gas can also be produced entirely by renewable sources. Thus it is an important part of solving the climate crisis.

GAS INFRASTRUCTURE HOLDS MASSIVE CLIMATE PROTECTION POTENTIAL

Gas is a cornerstone of the German and European energy sector. In Germany gas accounts for about one quarter of the total energy demand. However, referring to gas what is often meant is the fossil energy carrier gas.

However, the European Union follows a path towards a post-fossil energy sector. That means within the next decades, Europe wants to achieve a fully carbon-neutral society.
Beyond its fossil form gas can play a crucial role in reaching carbon-neutrality. Due to the increasing amounts of renewable electricity sources Europe’s countries will invest massively into the electricity grid over the next years. However, using the already existing gas infrastructure a significant portion of these investments could be avoided.

Looking at Germany only, gas storage and gas networks are a huge asset. While the maximum load in the electricity sector stands at 80 gigawatt, the gas infrastructure serves loads of up to 400 gigawatt. With a capacity of more than 200 gigawatt he gas storage facilities only could provide three times the energy that the electricity sector needs at times of maximum load.

The regulatory framework should seek to utilize gas infrastructures as an asset to implement a successful energy transition.

POWER-TO-GAS: TOWARDS A GREEN FUTURE FOR THE GAS SECTOR

The key to make use of the gas infrastructures in a renewable energy system are renewable gases. Renewable or green gases are gaseous energy carriers produced from renewable energy sources such as biomass or water. Depending on their original source of energy, renewable gases are divided into two groups: biogas and hydrogen or green methane processed via the Power-to-Gas technology.

The Power-to-Gas technology segregates water in an electrolysis process using renewable electricity. Thereby, hydrogen is split from oxygen. Hydrogen can then be used directly as a green gas or it can undergo further processes creating synthetic methane or fluid energies.

Many studies have shown the advantages of renewable gases on the way to a carbon-neutral society. A meta study of the VNG group on sector-coupling indicates that in Germany even in 2050 there will still be a relevant gas demand of more than 600 terawatt hours per year. To compare: In 2018 Germany’s gas demand hit 945 terawatt hours.

The Enervis study „Renewable Gases – a System Update for the Energy Transition” outlines the way to a carbon-neutral energy system in Germany until 2050. The paper shows that Germany should be using 930 terawatt hours of green gases to fulfill technical necessities but also decrease costs massively.

GAS SECTOR ALREADY PURSUES INNOVATIONS AND FUTURE TECHNOLOGIES

Companies in the gas sector already pursue several projects that comprise the production and storage of renewable gases in Germany. Here, gas storage system operators are among the frontrunners as they have been driving technological progress in the gas field for centuries.

With regard to the Power-to-Gas technology gas storage system operators are especially concerned with one question: Can conventional gas stores also be utilized to store synthetical green gases?

In general, we can already answer that question affirmatively as renewable gas storage is technically feasible. Synthetical methane for example can be stored without any restrictions as it has the same chemical characteristics as natural gas. A very interesting case though is hydrogen. Gas storage system operators currently conduct several studies on how this renewable gas can be stored in existing aquifers and caverns.

Extrapolations of early results show that German gas storage system operators are going to be able to provide at least 24 gigawatt renewable capacity from hydrogen stored in their facilities. That is around one quarter of the maximum load in the electricity market. Thus, gas storage system operators are getting ready for a renewable future.

An overview of Power-to-Gas projects planned or already implemented in Germany is given by the German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water (DVGW).

Download Power-to-Gas Map of DVGW

Uniper pioneers in power-to-gas

In the “Store & Go” project more than 20 partners have been working together to investigate the possibilities of integrating power-to-gas applications into the European energy grid and to promote the methanation of hydrogen. Uniper operates one of the first power-to-gas plants with a connected methanation facility in Falkenhagen in the German Federal State of Brandenburg.

VNG Tests Hydrogen Storage in Research Project

The VNG Gasspeicher GmbH is planning to convert a salt cavern in Bad Lauchstädt in the German Federal State of Saxony-Anhalt to 100 percent hydrogen as part of a research project called “Hypos” funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics. Thus, in the field of cavern storage, we can be confident that it storage facilities of this kind are fully capable of storing hydrogen. The following short video of the enviaM Group provides an insight into the overall structure of the Hypos project.

EWE tests Hydrogen Storage in Lower Saxony

As part of the “Power2Hydrogen” project, the energy provider EWE also wants to test how storage caverns can be retrofitted to be filled with synthetically generated hydrogen. The company plans to build a power-to-gas plant above its natural gas storage facility in Huntorf, Lower Saxony.

Project Description of EWE (in German)

RAG researches hydrogen storage in porous reservoirs

As part of the project “Underground Sun.Storage”, the Austrian RAG has already proven that 10 percent hydrogen can be mixed with natural gas in pore reservoirs. In the follow-up project “Underground Sun.Conversion” it is now being investigated to what extent underground chemical processes can be used for the methanation of hydrogen. This may also allow the storage of larger amounts of hydrogen in pore reservoirs.

INES committed to sustainable gas storage

A successful market-breakthrough of power-to-gas is not guaranteed all by itself. That is because the market does not regulate everything by itself. Network infrastructures are regulated and investments are socialized via network charges. The market does not pay attention to these costs in its decisions. That is why there is a need for political action for green gas.

In particular, INES regards three fields of action as essential:

  1. The Power-to-Gas technology needs an economic stimulus in order to be competitive in time.
  2. The structure of energy tariffs, levies and taxes needs to be designed in such a way that renewable gases are not discriminated in the cross-sectoral market for flexibility.
  3. Network tariffs in the electricity as well as the gas sector need to be organized in such a way that market participants enhance a cost-efficient cross-sectoral energy network development.

INES has in the past, together with other associations, called on politicians to take greater account of the potential of the gas industry as part of the energy transition. Among other things, in October 2016, together with eleven associations of the gas industry and other sectors, the joint declaration “Gas can be green” was published and later underpinned by concrete measures that contribute to a rapid and efficient reduction of CO2 emissions.

Another joint statement by twelve federations from July 2017 illustrates initiatives and potentials of the gas industry in the four fields of heating, transport, sector interconnection and research, including the launch of low-emission, innovative technologies.

With the implementation of the vision of renewable gas, the Federal Government should make use of the innovative capacity of the gas industry and thus enable the industry to make a socially acceptable transformation process possible.

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