The independent gas infrastructure companies Gasunie (Netherlands), Fluxys Belgium and Energinet.dk (Denmark) signed a joint declaration on 14 June 2012 to commit themselves to taking a proactive role in order to support a 100% carbon-neutral gas supply in their network infrastructures in 2050.
GRTgaz and Swedegas decided to actively support this initiative by joining the cooperation the 24 April 2013and Gaznat on 20 May 2014. Today, The German ONTRAS Gastransport is joining, too.
The companies emphasise that in the coming decades gas infrastructure will play a key role in the solution for reducing CO2-emissions in the European Union. The gas systems not only offer excellent opportunities to secure an affordable energy supply to European citizens and companies and, at the same time, facilitate the increase of the share of renewable energy and enable the development of a low-carbon economy towards 2050. Rather, for years the gas networks already contribute for environmental improvement by an increasing integration of renewable gases.
The companies recognise that climate change requires urgent action, and that the ultimate challenge is to carry out the required transition without unacceptable financial burdens for EU citizens and without jeopardising EU energy security. The availability of well-developed gas networks in Europe and the complementary function of gas vis-à-vis other energy forms make gas and gas infrastructure well positioned to meet this challenge. An intelligent convergence of power and gas networks will be twofold essential: First to optimise necessary investments and second to achieve the maximum efficiency in CO2 reduction.
The companies acknowledge that their front-runner position as independent gas infrastructure companies provides an incentive to strive for innovation. As infrastructure operators, the companies have a long strategic planning scope, in which the green vision of Europe in 2050 is already taken into account. Sustainability is therefore already an important part of their company strategy.
The common goal can be realised by working on a number of options, where the mix of options can vary as the specific energy situation differs for each country.
Main routes to a CO2-neutral gas supply in 2050
• The share of sustainable green gas in the infrastructure will be increased through biomethane by fermentation and through Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) produced by “gasification” of solid biomass. Since biomethane and biomass originate from living material that is grown by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere the natural carbon cycle is almost completely closed, so there are no negative effects on the climate. In a number of European countries the production of green gas is growing rapidly and so is the associated know-how.
• With the increase in the share of variable renewable energy sources in electricity production, the need for flexibility and back-up will increase. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind have an intermittent character, leading to both surpluses and shortages in supply: the wind will blow and the sun will shine not only when the electricity is needed, and vice versa. Gas and gas infrastructure, like no other form of energy, provide the flexibility that these sustainable forms of energy cannot provide on their own. Gas functions as an instantly available back-up in case of shortages and as an efficient storage medium in case of surplus. For example, by converting excess electricity into hydrogen, or even Synthetic Natural Gas (“methanisation”), which allows the reuse of CO2, electricity can actually be stored in gas networks and storage installations. In this way, gas helps the electricity networks to accommodate the large future volumes of sustainable energy supply and helps prevent sub-optimal use of costly sustainable energy. Furthermore, recent studies emphasise that cost for changing energy supply towards CO2-neutrality will diminish by billions of Euros when using the gas infrastructure as storage medium.
• Since the resources for renewable energy vary per country (wind, sun, area available for biomethane or biomass), part of the CO2-neutral or renewable gas will need to be exchanged across borders, both within the European Union, as well as with countries outside the European Union. This requires sufficient capacity across border points. Since natural gas typically crosses a number of borders between supply source and demand, most of this capacity is already available.
• Great steps towards higher energy efficiency and a cleaner environment can be made by substituting oil by CNG in personal transportation and by LNG in the heavy transport sector (trucks/ships). New infrastructure has to enable this development. In 2015 the focus will be on supporting national/regional authorities in preparing the national policy frameworks for the market development of alternative fuels and their infrastructure as required by EU Directive 2014/94.
• The gas system may provide an alternative to long-distance transportation of electricity since gas can transport energy up to 20 times more efficiently than electricity.
Additional options towards a green gas system
• Natural gas can be made CO2-neutral by using internationally accepted green certificates, such as defined by the Clean Development Mechanism agreed under the Kyoto protocol. This makes it possible to reduce CO2-emissions in countries outside the European Union.
• Natural gas can be made CO2-neutral by employing Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), though this is not expected to be deployed on a significant scale before 2030. In the long run CO2 can be used for producing Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) from excess electricity from variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, thereby closing the natural carbon cycle.
• Finally, the energy system 40 years ago looked much different. Over the past 40 years technologies have emerged that were not foreseen 40 years ago. Similarly, it can be expected that over the next 40 years new technologies will emerge that will help reduce CO2 emissions from natural gas. A continued focus on innovation, supported by a clear vision on where we aim to be in 2050, will help to get such technology options developed.
Role of gas infrastructure companies
Gas infrastructure companies, and especially Transmission System Operators, have an important facilitating and initiating role to play in greening the use of gas. Providing and connecting infrastructure to biomethane and Synthetic Natural Gas systems, taking care of gas quality issues, and promoting the efficiency of natural gas usage are among them. However, using gas systems in a low-carbon economy will need a combined effort from many market participants.
The variable nature of renewable energy sources will cause more volatility in the use of the natural gas infrastructure, whereby yearly gas volumes could decrease while the demand for peak capacity could increase due to the need for back-up electricity generation.
European energy policy, for example through the Energy Roadmap 2050, sees a key role for gas until 2030 due to the inherently cleaner nature of natural gas versus other fossil fuels, and the large potential for very efficient use.
Strengthened cooperation across borders
Swedegas, GRTgaz, Gasunie, Fluxys Belgium, Energinet.dk, Gaznat and ONTRAS have agreed to work together in the following areas to realise their joint commitment to the green gas system:
• Publication of a joint declaration with concrete steps that have to be taken in order to help develop the CO2-neutral gas system.
• Exchange knowledge and know-how on the above-mentioned technologies in order to develop solutions that are most suitable for the individual markets – possibly including establishing joint demonstration projects.
• Facilitate establishment of a well-functioning renewable gas certificate market in
With these strategic actions, the signatories will -through their gas infrastructures- promote a more sustainable Europe and proactively work together to reach this goal.
In addition, we will annually communicate the initiatives we have taken in order to remain promoters of a low-carbon economy.
Specific interests of the stakeholders
More information about the stakeholders